I attended a beautiful wedding yesterday and witnessed two people who are very much in love enter into a life long covenant with each other. Whenever I conduct or witness a wedding, the line in the marriage vows that always captures my attention is "for better for worse." It is a reminder to me that covenants should not be entered into lightly and that the commitment made is not conditional upon happiness, success or the absence of conflict.
I have made three significant covenants in my life - Soldier's Covenant, Marriage Covenant, and Officer's Covenant - each representing a significant relationship that requires an unconditional commitment to another.
In my Soldier's Covenant I promised: "I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, loyal to its leaders, and I will show the spirit of salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution."
In my Marriage Covenant I promised: "To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part."
In my Officer's Covenant I promised: "I bind myself to Him in this solemn covenant to love and serve Him supremely all my days."
While people enter into covenants with all the right intentions, it is increasingly evident that covenants are becoming more and more fragile during times of crisis and conflict. I have watched people walk away from marriages, abandon churches (Soldiership) and leave ministry (Officership) at an alarming rate. Now, you and I both know that because of the sinfulness of humankind there are circumstances that make some covenants impossible to keep, but we can also agree that far too many people break a covenant when it is no longer convenient, when they are challenged, going through a crisis or experiencing conflict.
Covenant keeping requires a determined WILL - a determination from the outset to "stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured" (Colossians 4:12)
Covenant keeping requires a determined FAITH - a determination to stay faithful to a faithful God whose "divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life" (2 Peter 1:3).
Covenant keeping requires a determined LOVE - a determination to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." and to "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39)
Note: References to 'Soldiership' and 'Officership' are positions within The Salvation Army relating to membership and full-time ministry.