Catacomb Resident Blog

Covenant Building Leadership

07 March 2022

I'm going to give you one snippet of information about me that could risk my anonymity. I think it's worth the risk to explain something critical from the Word of God.

If I were to pursue a new career today, based on what I know about myself, it would be in the general area of logistics and civil engineering. That is, my brain instinctively thinks in terms of infrastructure and provision. To me, the wise and elegant provision for human need is very nearly as beautiful as the grandest natural wonders. One of the first questions I ask inside my head about anything is, "What is necessary to make this work? What are the dependencies in this context?"

That's how I view my obligations to the Covenant of Christ. I think in terms of moral infrastructure. My visions focus on the broader enabling of human compliance with the standards and boundaries, and what it should look like when it works well. That includes measures of convincing people to go along with the biblical vision of a covenant community. That means I could be a policeman in the sense of a compliance officer, but also in the sense of drafting guidelines that focus on encouraging voluntary compliance. Given the right incentives, people will do almost anything. I am very much anti-legalist, and always have been. In my work in various organizations, I have always fought legalism as the enemy of compliance.

As you might expect, in a military setting I'd be a serious challenge to most superior officers, because the vast majority of those who are granted promotions are those who excel at legalism. In NATO circles, the US services are distinguished from all our allies by inflexibility and by-the-book regulatory nit-picking. One of the primary issues with infrastructure is not trying to channel human behavior, but to do your best to accommodate what people are already trying to do. You build systems based on human need; regulatory considerations come second. Regulations and taxation must be within reach, not based on simply what you imagine you can squeeze out of them. Otherwise, you will be forever battling human tendencies that cannot be steered externally.

Granted, in the Covenant we have the consideration of whether a human drive is valid. Divine revelation reflects what is already programmed into human nature; it is what the Designer Himself knows humans need and what they can be compelled to do. No human system has that advantage. Thus, outside of the Covenant, there is very little valid understanding of what regulation should look like. You can posit all the moral values you like, but outside the Covenant you cannot possibly hope to get it right. Within the Covenant, you cannot fail.

This understanding is critical when we start contemplating obedience to the Covenant boundaries. There must inevitably be a contextual interpretation of what those boundaries mean, but your interpretation must bow the knee to the things the Covenant makes clear. For example, Western thinking is punitive and hateful when it comes to human failures. The whole purpose of the Covenant is to be redemptive, healing and correcting our flaws. Your covenant community must build an awareness that redeems a Western instinct. Faith and redemption make people childlike and trusting; hateful punishment makes them childish and rebellious. Your moral infrastructure should take them from where they are to where they should be.

A covenant elder must look out for the peculiar weaknesses of the community and lay a path to redemption. Teaching must meet them in the prison where they live, and point out the exits. You can't make the right decisions or perform the right acts for them, but you can give them the key to open the cell doors. Teaching must make the keys obvious, along with how to use them. Then you can reward the right choices with meaningful accolades. Help them to see the power of the Lord working to make shalom real.

These are things to keep in mind as the Lord carries us through tribulation to a time and place where He can build genuine covenant communities.

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