Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
There is something very precious that our western, neoliberal society is in danger of losing. I am speaking of the need human beings have to live together in covenantal ways. We have a need to make covenants with one another.
I have a bible dictionary that defines ‘covenant’ as
a formal agreement or treaty between two parties in which each assumes some obligation.
When someone says ‘covenant’, many people think first of the covenant of marriage. You know,
Mary, will you give yourself to Fred,
to live together in the covenant of marriage?
Will you love him, comfort him,
honour and protect him,
and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him,
as long as you both shall live?
Marriage fits the bill. It is certainly ‘a formal agreement […] between two parties in which each assumes some obligation’. (And there really are times when marriage may seem to be more like a treaty…)
Marriage isn’t the only relationship I would describe as a covenant. Let me name friendship as an informal kind of covenant. True friendship can join people together in ways which involve a mutual obligation on both parties through time, perhaps through a whole lifetime. In covenantal ways. The companionship of friends in good times, and the support good friends offer in hard times therefore has a ‘covenant’ aspect.