Raising Relational Standards
A father and mother hold a little baby in their arms at church…”We promise to will raise this child in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord,” and a family is born.
A witness puts his hand on the Bible…a businessperson puts her name on a contract…a friend vows to keep a secret that another friend has shared in confidence!
We are Promise-Making people. Marriages and families…friendships and businesses …churches and nations are all built on promises. But here’s another truth about us: We are also Promise-Breaking people. We say, “I’ll be there,” and sometimes we’re not…”You can count on me” and sometimes people can’t…“You have my word” but sometimes we break it for the sake of convenience or pain avoidance!
Children learn early on that adults are prone to breaking their commitments so they’ll try to pin their parents down…, “Promise?” To a kid, it’s unthinkable that an adult would make a promise and break it, so kids will attach little riders to them like, “Cross your heart?” and if that’s not enough, “Cross your heart and hope to die?” You’d think that would be enough because that’s a pretty serious consequence but sometimes it’s, “Promise? Cross your heart, hope to die, stick a needle in your eye?” Now that’s a gruesome picture!
When talking about ‘Raising Relational Standards,’ we find that at the heart of relational excellence is this concept of Promise-Making and Promise-Keeping!
The Bible’s word for promise-making or -keeping is Covenant. A Covenant is not a statement about my preferred outcome.., a covenant is a sacred vow; a declaration of my heart and soul that says, “This thing shall be so no matter what!”
The Importance of Covenants to God
Covenant keeping is of paramount importance to God – it’s the key to relational excellence at work, home, with spouse, kids and friends. Not only does God challenge us to be Covenant Keeping people, He set the standard for us by being the ultimate Covenant Keeper Himself!
In the very beginning, (Gen. 1,2,3) God makes a covenant with human beings: He promises to give them breath/life, food, meaningful work, relational intimacy, to care for them, and in turn He asks Adam and Eve to promise to obey one single command – just one – and they don’t do it. They break faith/covenant with God. At that moment, all creation holds its breath to see how God will respond to these two covenant breakers. Will He turn His back on them and say, ‘Deal’s off’? Well amazingly, He doesn’t turn His back (the Bible records, He disciplines them for their disobedience), but He makes another promise…, ‘One day, I’m going to send someone who will redeem men and women from the Evil One…the curse of sin.’ God keeps His original covenant to care for them but He also establishes another covenant.
But human beings remain unfaithful to God, and Gen. 6:5 (NIV) says, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time,” so God sent a flood to stop all the destruction. Then in Verse 8, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD,” and God saved Noah and his family! And after the flood, God told Noah, ‘I will establish another covenant with you and your descendants and with every living creature on earth. Never again will there be a flood to destroy the whole earth. And I will give you a sign of this covenant called a rainbow. God said, ‘Whenever I see that rainbow, I’ll remember my covenant, keep my vow, and honor my word to never again destroy the earth with a flood.’
But the human race is very slow to learn and yet God remembered His promise and refused to give up on His covenant. So He came to a very old man, Abram, saying ‘I’m going to make a covenant with you! You’re going to be called Abraham and you will be the father of many peoples. And I know it’s hard to believe, because you’re 99 years old, and your wife is 89, but the two of you are going to have a baby! You’ll not have a single tooth between the three of you and you’ll be the only family buying Pampers and Depends at the same time! But you will be the father of a great nation, and I will also give you a sign of this covenant that I’m making – circumcision!’ Abraham said, ‘How come Noah got the rainbow? I’d rather have the rainbow, or a hangnail or something!’ I don’t know why God chose circumcision; maybe He decided they needed something to help them remember and not be so casual about the covenant this time.