Sunday, March 11, 2012

Marriage Contracts vs. Marriage Covenants

Today many couples enter into a marriage relationship with the attitude, “If it doesn’t workout, we can always part our separate ways.” This is what I would call the “backdoor” or “escape hatch” to the covenant of marriage. Actually, any person or couple who enter into a marriage relationship with this mindset is not entering into a marriage covenant at all, but rather a “contractual business deal”. Let me see if I can explain the difference between a “covenant” and a “contract” and how each one plays out in a marriage relationship.

If you look up the word “contract” and “covenant” in today’s dictionary, you will be hard pressed to see much difference between the two definitions, but there is a stark difference and it lies within one’s attitude towards the other person.

A “contract” is an agreement between two parties who mutually agree to provide each other with certain benefits as long as the other party upholds their end of the agreement. That once one party of the contract ceases or fails to uphold their end of the contract, the other party is under no obligation to uphold their end of the deal. If that happens, the contracted relationship is then open for “renegotiation” or it is broken and each party goes their own way.

Therefore, a married couple that views their relationship as a contractual agreement is living with each other under a conditional basis. This attitude goes something like this: “As long as you do this for me, I will do that for you…once you stop doing that for me, I don’t have to do this for you.” Everything goes great as long as each person upholds his or her end of the bargain…but things begin to fall apart very quickly when one or both parties stop performing their “expected” duties.

A “covenant”, on the other hand, approaches each party with a completely different attitude. A covenant relationship is when two parties mutually agree to enter into a relationship and seeks out the other person’s best interest, regardless of the personal cost and/or sacrifice to self. This attitude looks like this: “I promise to do this for you and you have promised to do this for me. I will continue to do this for you regardless of your unwillingness or inability to hold up your promise to me.”

Our culture understands well the concept of “contracts”, but it has lost the true meaning of a “covenant”. Probably because we have fallen into such a self-centered, self-serving and selfish mindset of living our daily lives. No wonder we have such unhappy marriages and the divorce rate is so high. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but a “marriage covenant” will ALWAYS make for happier and longer lasting marriages than “marriage contracts” ever will!

Think about it, "...for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part." can only be truly fulfilled when you have the other person's best interest at heart, regardless of the cost to you...and not through the selfish and self-centered conditions of a contract!