Published 01 October 2010
In the Scriptures the human story begins with our being created in the image of God.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
In Genesis 2 God ‘split the Adam', making the relationship between man and woman uniquely intimate.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24
We human beings are created as persons, made in the image of the personal God, and our relationships are God-given, not man-made. By God's design our relationships are to have the following characteristics:.
? Defined by God. Each relationship, husband-wife, parent-child, etc. has a given character. If a man has the same kind of sexual relationship with his daughter or his neighbour's wife as he has with his wife we would say that this is against the given nature of things.
? Given rather than chosen. We do not choose our parents, brothers and sisters, etc. The first question the couple is asked in the Uniting Church marriage service is: ‘N and N, do you believe that God has guided you to each other and now calls you into marriage?'
? Life-long relationships of covenant faithfulness. In our families we are bound together in life to people we did not choose. Your Mum is always your Mum..
?Relationships that are other-person-centred in love and service. Hence God's command: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'
Just as atoms are held in structured relationship within a molecule, according to the design of the Creator, so we human beings have been placed in a well- designed relational structure of family and community.
The family is the primary school in which all relationships are learned, and so Paul is able instruct believers to model relationships in the community of faith on their family relationships which have the above described covenantal characteristics.
Thus our covenant faithfulness in our family becomes the basis for the way we are to relate in the church and in the world. The active agent of covenant is one's word, and so we speak of someone being as good as his or her word. It is important that children obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1), and that the parent's word does not return to them empty (Isaiah 55:11).
The outcomes of covenant relationships are:
? Lifelong Marriages ? Stable Families ? Children raised in covenant security ? Trusting and trustworthy Communities ? Strong and blessed Nations.
We can see that each of these levels of covenant faithfulness is built upon the preceding levels. Thus a nation is made strong from the bottom up. It is this structure that some elements in the modern political scene are determined to demolish.
In a humanist understanding of life, there are no given relationships, and so we choose, negotiate and contract our relationships according to our own independent rights and self-determination as individuals.
The word ‘partner' is used to express the contractual way of relating. ‘Partner' can mean a number of different things, e.g., spouse, defacto, homosexual partner, current escort, business or recreational associate. Inherent in the word ‘partner' is the idea that this relationship is something that we have initiated for our own purposes. The outcomes of contractual relationships are: ? short term- disposable relationships ? marriage breakdown ? family disintegration ? sexually transmitted diseases ? children raised in broken homes ? abuses and perversions ? multiple-relationship burnout ? breakdown of community and national life.
From all of the above we can see that we were created for 100% covenant faithfulness. While we are allowed up to .05% alcohol in our blood when driving, even .00001% unfaithfulness will make for bad blood in our covenant relationships.
But the reality of human relationships is that we have dishonoured our parents, fought with our brothers and sisters, cheated on our spouses, ignored our neighbours, exploited people in our community, and slandered and invaded other nations.
Guilt separates us from others and prevents us from developing strong and intimate covenant bonds.
A world created for covenant relationships requires a means of atonement, i.e. at-one-ment, or reconciliation. It is here that we hear the words of the Lord Jesus at the last supper, "This is my blood of the new (or renewed) covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28). We need shed blood for the bad blood of our covenant breaking, and our older brother has made peace in the family through the shedding of his own blood for us.
None of us comes to covenant relationships out of the pure air of holiness, but rather out of the stinking smoke and filthy mud of hatred, lies, exploitation, neglect, lust, and violence.
Our own experience will demonstrate that the Divine solvent of atonement can dissolve our relationship impurities and restore our covenant power again. Because of God's undying covenant love for us, or perhaps we should say because of His dying covenant love, John's words become true in us and in our relationships.
"We (covenant) love because He first (covenant) loved us". 1 John 4:19
Rod James (South Australia)