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Getting Married or Buying a Car?

We’ve been slowly working our way through the ReKnew Manifesto. Currently, I’m offering some thoughts on the second of our convictions, which states that it’s time for us to rethink what we thought we knew about the nature of faith.

Studies have shown that over 80% of Americans say that they believe they are “saved” because they have faith in Jesus. Yet, these same studies show that this belief has next to no impact on how three quarters of those people live or the values they espouse. They live the same way with their belief as they would without it. One of the main factors contributing to this sad statistic is that Americans generally have no clear idea of what “faith” is.

Like so many other things in Scripture, faith is a covenantal concept. A covenant involves people pledging their life to one another and covenantal faith describes a person’s willingness to entrust their life to another and to live in a trustworthy way toward another.

Though they may look similar at first glance, covenants are very different than contracts. In contracts people don’t pledge their lives to each other, they simply enter into legal arrangements. A contract involves a transaction that leaves the parties unchanged, while a covenantal pledge to entrust your life to another and to be trustworthy toward another fundamentally alters the people involved.

It’s the difference between getting married and buying a car.

Unfortunately, we live in a litigious, contractual, consumer-driven culture in which covenants are all but non-existent. Hence most western, contract-minded, consumers confuse the marriage covenant Jesus invites us to enter with a contract they think Jesus wants us to sign. When western consumers hear about the “Good News,” they assume this refers to a “good deal.” When these contract-minded people hear that Jesus died for their sins, they assume this reflects the particular terms of a curious transaction he made with the Father to acquire our good deal. He “paid the price” so we don’t have to. And when these contract-minded folk hear that they can be “saved by faith,” they assume this means they can purchase their post-mortem fire insurance for the mere cost of believing certain truths. “If you believe in Jesus, you’re saved.” Sweet deal!

When you entrust your life to another and pledge to live trustworthy in relation to them, it changes everything about you. But if you merely purchase a car, you can simply enjoy the ride home. So too, if you think Christianity is a sweet deal by which you acquire post-mortem fire insurance that Jesus purchased for you by merely assenting to certain truths, you simply enjoy the ride home. And the studies I mentioned suggest that this is precisely what three quarters of the 80% who believe they are saved by having faith in Jesus are doing.

The truth is, Jesus died to acquire a bride to share his life with, not to acquire a satisfied customer he makes a sweet deal with. If this doesn’t strike you as good news, you may have fallen victim to a slick car salesman disguised as a minister of the gospel.

Image by Victor1558. Used in accordance with Creative Commons. Sourced via Flickr.

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