Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Covenants, games and contracts

Games have three possible outcomes: win, lose or stalemate.  A zero-sum game is a game where the gains of one side exactly equal the other side's losses.  These are usually only entered into through a contract between mutually consenting parties and mostly the stakes are abstract (the win itself - and possible trophy for doing so). Dueling is a notable exception to this notion of abstrat stakes, the stakes are life itself.

There are also lone player games.  These can be in the form of a challenge to find a way through a set puzzle or they can be a response to some random command say thrown up through the the roll of dice.  In the first case, the direct involvement of a second human party in not necessary, in the second, an audience is usually liked, tomfoolery is enjoyed and outcomes can be extremely hurtful because third parties will be roped in for the entertainment, often unaware that they are part of the game until they have invested something emotional in it and been made a fool of. The "pleasure" to be obtained from them is the adulation of your peers and the fulfilling of a personal challenge for the sake of it. Both these types are simply an excuse to avoid the serious business of living.

Contracts involve a formal process whereby two parties agree to give to each other usually for their mutual gain.  Contracts are temporal and have a legal framework to them in terms of what is and what is not allowed.  I use the term legal loosely.  In my chequered past I had the "good fortune" to be taught the mechanics of the gay clubs.  It was fascinating to see the signs that people would exhibit to show what they have on offer: from simple dominant or submissive to hidden signs detailing really specific sexual preferences. Once the signs were on display, the people were in the market and those desiring such goods, with complimentary goods on offer in return, could engage in contracts for their mutual pleasure. Sadly, what was on display in the gay clubs in grimy Northern England was simply an extreme, colourful and dangerous manifestation of what happens in most relationships between consenting adults that are looking for love.

There is no love to be found in contracts.

Love is essentially a covenant. This is because God's love is covenant and God is love.  It is a promise that cannot be broken and is not dependent on the behaviour of the other. It is an act of the will, it is never an overbearing burden.  It is meaningless without God as a transcendent third making Himself manifest through the covenant. Because it has love at its heart, the freedom of the other party is absolute, there is no coercion, no flirting, no acting, no desire for anything other that what is best for the other. Covenants do not have measurable, predictable outcomes. Covenant simply is.  Covenant is not a game and it is not a contract. Though there may be contractual elements to a covenant (say in marriage), they are not essential.

Why bother?  To engage in a covenant looks on the surface to be self-defeating and pointless and counter-intuitive (like hunting unicorns- you don't catch a unicorn by simply chasing it) perhaps this is so.  However games and contracts will never come close to revealing the essence of our existence but immersion in covenant and study of God's covenant with us may just bring us closer to Him.

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