Supreme Ambition Ministries

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known – Philippians 3:10

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE?

So You Think You Can Dance?

The Essence of Covenant Community

Living within a culture where divorce is commonplace and single-parent homes are more the norm, it is difficult for those of us in the Twenty-first century to grasp the importance of a covenant relationship as it relates to Christian growth and discipleship. So, what defines a Christian community? It is possible that in taking a look at the Biblical concept of marriage we may shed some light upon the concept of covenant discipleship?
Marriage, a Spiritual Template

The heart of God is all about relationships. For that reason He placed humans in families. Therefore, the Christian concept of marriage is a marvelous template for covenant relationship, as well as growth and training in Christian discipleship. The divine plan for marriage is for one man and one woman to continue in their intimate relationship for life. However, since the invention of television and the influx of the digital revolution, human senses are brainwashed, and placed on overload, when it comes to what one might expect from a marriage relationship. Hollywood promises emotional fireworks and explosions of passion at every turn. Not surprisingly, it delivers poorly. Tinseltown’s answer to our disappointment with its failed promises is merely to find another partner. According to divorcerate.org, “The divorce rate in America for first marriage, vs. second or third marriage is 50% of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.” Apparently, the entertainment industry’s predictions do not get better with multiplicity of partners.
Marriage in a truly Christian environment cannot be improved upon as a template for teaching people how to live in community. Mankind was not made to live in isolation. We function better in a setting where we have the opportunity to make one another better. The author of proverbs says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, ESV). How disappointing it is when companions bail out on one another at the least provocation. Doing this defrauds the couple and the family unit of the ability to observe how to live and behave in the midst of adversity. Therefore, society misses the opportunity to have crack troops, who have weathered the storms of life, and who can pass down to all observers their secrets to victorious living. Of course, this does not take into account the relationships that are abusive, or hopeless for one reason or another. In those situations, the choices are often limited, and making informed decisions is difficult at best. Under normal circumstances, however, it seems that the experience of marriage can be a catalyst not only for the home, but also for the community at large, and for the Church in particular. The dissolution of a marriage, on the other hand, affects both the couple and those attached to them either through birth, or through other significant relationships. Scars cover the lives of countless numbers of people because of failed marriages. The branches of this poisonous vine weave their way through generations and leave traces of their irritation on the souls of friend, foe, and fellow without discrimination. Perhaps the most tragic realization that the Church must recognize is that the failure of marriage today is virtually equal to that of the world. It appears that most people enter into a marriage relationship with the idea that the person they marry will make them happy.

Contrarily, if a couple considers its marriage vows as something more than a simple ceremony with some colorful words, their declaration may be one in which they recognize they have entered into a covenant, not only with one another, but also with God. If they have entered into this covenant soberly, and determine that the promises they make to one another before God are binding, then the chances of their marriage ending diminish greatly.

Similarly, the new birth is a marriage ceremony of sorts. The decision a candidate for discipleship makes to cease living independently, and to begin living in a covenant relationship is as serious as the choice of a life partner. If divorce adversely affects scores of people, what is the effect upon the Church and the culture of people entering into a covenant relationship with God and his people unadvisedly, or lightly? Furthermore, if divorce stifles the emotional maturity of growing children, what does the severing of bonds among God’s people do to young Christian disciples? The spiritual aptitude of any local expression of Christ will not rise above the devout intellect and practice of the least mature member of that Body.

Remember the words spoken by the Lord Jesus, “If any two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name there am I among them” (Matthew 18:19-20, ESV). The root word for ‘agree’ is sumphoneo (symphony), and signifies a harmonious blending of musical instruments. Is there a better place to observe the symphony of true Christianity than in the relationship of two believing, married partners, warts and all, who passionately love their Lord and one another? There is a marked difference between the love of a middle school couple and that of a more mature couple after several years of marriage. The Bible says, “If any two of you agree . . .?” That statement, alone, implies negotiation, submission, and self-denial. For many, it assumes someone got his way, and someone else did not get her way. Truly, this would be the result, were it not for the fact of the dance, or the symphony. In a vital covenant relationship, either marriage or church, the issue is not whether person “A” or “B” gets what he wants, but rather, to what extent does each surrender to the dance (will of God)? Is fulfillment in life accomplished by one’s ability to accumulate the most toys before he dies? Is one’s relationship in marriage successful because her partner makes her happy, or because she finds mutual fulfillment with her partner as they lay down their lives in service for one another, for others and for the glory of God?

C. S. Lewis wrote,
“The idea that ‘being in love’ is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all. If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.”

The method people use in choosing a church today is typical of a society influenced by Post-modern thought. One chooses churches, marital partners, jobs, etc. according to how much pleasure one receives from the choice. Parents often choose a church according to the types and numbers of programs offered to them and their children. Of course, it is good for churches to offer options; however, if one’s experience in church is little more than a propositional one, the intimate connection with Christ and his community lessens. The Biblical ideal in marriage is for one to take his time in choosing his life’s companion. He must understand that his decision is for life, and that his commitment involves a covenant agreement. It should not be broken simply because he is not as happy as he had hoped. The bliss of marriage comes as two very different personalities share a common goal of allowing their marriage to be the dance of life that brings glory to God. They discover their mutual fulfillment as they ride the waves of frustration and experience the hills and valleys of joy and disappointment. Their individual experiences in the journey they share not only shape them into mature persons in Christ, but also mold their corporate existence as a family into a model for effective community living.

Even as Jesus found a ‘door of hope’ in the dark, gloom of a borrowed tomb, perhaps we, too, can find a window of opportunity in the difficult work of learning how to dance.  Remember when you were  twixt twelve and twenty and you went to that first dance?  Remember how insecure you felt about the dance.  As you and the object of your affection approached one another, then casually embraced one another, the awful thought struck you that you weren’t sure what to do next.  ”Who should lead?”  ”Who should follow?”  What if both wanted to lead . . . or follow?  Many people in all types of relationships make it no further in their communion than the approach.  Others ‘take the bull by the horns’ so to speak and take on a part of the dance that does not belong to them.  Sadly, all the observers see is two or more insecure people concerned more about how they look as participants than about the greater glory of the dance.  This, I fear, is a picture of our culture:  People who don’t know how to dance in their relationships.  The Bible offers us the best instructions for proper relationships but we’ll have to sacrifice to discover it.

This is a section of a soon to be published book, entitled, You Have Been Called: Revolutionary Discipleship Through the Covenant Family.   All rights reserved 2010.

June 22nd, 2012 Posted by | Christian Life, Church, Fellowship, Relationships, True Church LIfe | comments