What’s the shortest wedding you’ve ever done?
When I’m meeting with a couple before they get married, I’ll sometimes tell them that the shortest wedding I ever did took only about four minutes. Almost immediately I have to tell the groom not to get too excited, but I tell couples about that short wedding to highlight the fact that the heart of a wedding ceremony is the vows that are exchanged by the couple. All the other “stuff” of a wedding ceremony is good and helpful, but it is there to highlight and support the vows that are made. A wedding is about a vow, about a public commitment made before God and others who are there to witness it.
Promises and Obligations
Another word for the commitment that is made at a wedding is the word covenant. A covenant is a serious agreement or pact that involves promises and obligations. In a sense, when we make a covenant, we take the relationships to the next level. We say, “This is really serious.” That’s what a couple is doing when they get married. They are promising things to each other and they are obligating themselves to keep that promise. Neal Plantinga calls covenants “official love.”
Signed and Sealed
Covenants are often sealed with a sign of some sort. It might be a handshake. It might be by sharing a meal or a drink together. In a wedding we often exchange rings as a sign and seal of the promise that is made. When you were younger, maybe you spit on your hand before shaking hands to show that you really meant your promise (or maybe you even drew your own blood to show how serious you were!).
God is into covenants!
We may not use the word covenant all that often, but the Bible uses the word 272 times.
And God is often a part of those covenants. He comes to His people and He makes promises and then He often gives signs of that promise—like a rainbow. God wants us to know that we can trust Him. He’s promised. He makes His love for us “official” by a covenant.
But what difference does it make? If we understand it correctly, it makes a huge difference. We live in a world where there aren’t many things that are guaranteed. Our lives are filled with unknowns. We’re not sure what or even who we can really count on. But God gives us His covenant and says to us, “You can count on me. I will be there for you. I will be there with you.” And that gives us hope. That gives us strength. And when we make covenants with each other, we take a little piece of the future and say to someone, “You can count on me. I will be there for you.” And that can be a great source of strength in a pretty tough world.
So what about it? Can you think of any covenants you’ve made with people? What about with your kids? Ever made a promise to them that if they get a certain grade, you’ll take them to the water park? What about with a friend? Ever made a pact with someone to take care of each other? If you have, you were acting like God when you made those commitments. And that’s a good thing.