A friend is thinking of leaving our church. She isn’t the first and won’t be the last, and I’ve left my share of churches in life, so I know whatever I say won’t matter much. So instead I’m thinking of covenant these days, the Old Testament, grab the inner thigh, share the sandal, slaughter the lamb kind of covenant.
At my church we don’t sign a membership document promising to agree with everything my church teaches, promising to never question authority, or to turn a blind eye to what seems unjust. We sign a Covenant saying we’ll wrestle every demon to the ground before we turn our backs on these brothers and sisters. We’ll turn over every stone before we’ll call anyone a heretic. We’ll come to our senses as quickly as possible and run from the pig’s pen to a Father who meets us.
We sign up for Covenant, not a pansy pot-luck.
But kind of.
This morning in class we read the first part of I Samuel 18 three times. Three times is a holy number and so I listen close.
Three is also the number that made a covenant in those first few verses: David, Jonathan, and an unseen God who wouldn’t leave them, not ever.
Three is also the number of times the author made mention of Jonathan’s soul being knit to David’s.
A soul is a funny thing. In my circle I never ask how someone’s doing, or how is their heart. I ask how their soul is and people always turn their head sideways, maybe laugh a bit at me. Their soul? Their soul? Ask about my car, or my health, or my day, or my family, but not my soul. Not that precious, beautiful, broken bit of me. Not the bit of me that is secure and fashioned deep in the crevices of God, but oh, so tender still.
Souls are the one thing about us and within us that are truly lost or truly found, but all the peripherals crowd around and lie to that soul, telling us we are not okay and never will be. And sometimes our souls lie to us in other ways, telling us we are okay when we’re clearly not.
I think of my friend this morning, and myself, and all the others. Friends who have left the Church, been burned by the Church, can’t figure their way around the Church. I think of David and Jonathan, and Jonathan’s soul. And I think of God who cares about souls.
The Covenant I signed with my church is not a failsafe; it does not keep me from harm or knit me to the people there. It is not my badge of glory or my shame. It does not give me special privilege or grant me favor. The Covenant is a promise between them and me, us and God. It says we will chase, we will run, we will warn, we will fight, we will wrestle, and someday, some final day, we will win. Our souls are knit together, see?
And that is the God who Covenants with me too, and I can’t get over this today: He runs, chases, meets me at the end of the lane, throws his cloak on me, and welcomes me at long last home.
If you’re interested, I’m also talking about covenant Church living over at Deeper Church today in a provokingly titled post: Mark Driscoll Isn’t My Pastor