All of life is covenantal. For those unfamiliar with the term, a covenant is like a contract or a pact. Marriage is based on a covenant, as is your citizenship, your participation at school, work, church and the local golf club.
Life in any of these covenants requires two things.
First, you must be justified. That is, you need to be eligible for membership. Bob can’t enter the covenant of marriage with Sue if he’s already married to Betty.
Second, you must be considered righteous. That is, you need to play by the rules of the covenant you’re in. Bob can’t expect to stay married to Betty or enjoy the benefits of marriage with Betty much longer if he keeps offering back rubs to Sue.
In the Covenant of Grace, those who enter are called the righteous, the justified. They have been baptised into Christ, eat at His table, and enjoy all of the benefits of being in that covenant. Those outside of the covenant are called the wicked or the unrighteous.
Every civil order has this division. The only thing that differs from culture to culture is the gods who determine the standards used to declare a person righteous.
Righteousness matters. In any society, only the righteous have the right to be offended when the standard is breached. Taking offence is the prerogative of the righteous. The wicked (those who act outside the terms of the covenant) never have the right to be offended. They are, by definition, guilty. For example, when the covenant of marriage breaks down because a husband cheats on his wife, she has the right to be offended, not him. He is regarded as unrighteous.
But what do you do when the culture you live in starts to declare evil good and good evil? What do you do when a woman gets barbequed by the public for puffing on a cigarette when six months pregnant but applauded for her abortion a week later?
What happens when things are turned on their head, and you get a knock on the door by the local police because you called out a sodomite, and the sodomite gets a cash prize for being offended? What happens when you are considered unrighteous for your faith, and the wicked are considered righteous?
It’s never nice to be harassed or condemned for doing what is right and good. But believers are taught to expect this sort of thing from the world (1 Peter 3:16).
We are also taught to believe that God sees, and He can tell the difference.
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord. (Proverbs 17:15)
From state governments deciding that unvaccinated members of the church are unclean to gay marriage, the church has become more than a little confused about how we ought to read the situation we are in and how we should respond to the demands of the culture. But the language here is thoroughly biblical (which means we should be noticing it).
In short, the wicked have become the “new righteous”, and conscientious Christians are increasingly the “new wicked”. They are outside the civic pale and will be punished under the terms of the covenant for their “offence”.
When the enforcers of this civil covenant take action, they act to protect their idea of righteousness. They act to protect and bless those approved by their standards. And when the church joins in as an enforcer, she is no longer acting faithfully to the covenant she is supposedly in.
This was the “guilt” (if He had any, which He didn’t) of Jesus Christ. He was found guilty of not playing by the rules of the day. Rules made up by a church gone astray and enforced by a civil government gone mad.
One of the temptations of both the disciples and the church since those days is to duck. Keep your faith to yourself. Keep your faith private and compromise it publicly so as not to suffer exclusion or persecution.
But Christianity is not a private religion. The demands of the covenant of grace are global.
Jesus was not the victim of a hit and run. He didn’t die in His sleep. He was executed publicly. Christianity is a public religion. And so, our faith is always both private and public. We have our covenant, and we have our marching orders. And one of those marching orders is love. And love does not pander to, or compromise with, lamb-eating wolves.
No covenant, anywhere, ever lets you have it both ways. You can either look to the state for your blessings or to Christ. But neither will tolerate compromise. The claims of a covenant are always total.
In a world that has flipped the standard of righteousness, that has devised its own covenant according to its own idols, faithfulness to the covenant of grace will mean suffering. It will mean being wildly unpopular at times.
But we are not called to be popular or the lovers of men’s praise but faithful to the covenant to which we belong. We are called to be faithful unto death to the husband who has purchased us at the cost of His own blood.
And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. (Luke 12:8-9)
Leave behind the thought that we can deny Him His total Lordship publicly and somehow magically acknowledge Him as Lord of our hearts. The Covenant of Grace does not allow for this kind of half-baked allegiance any more than a married man will put up with a wandering wife.
As a Christian, let your eye be as steady as a star and your mind made up to serve Him with your whole heart, knowing that He who commands also supplies the power and grace to obey.