Contract versus covenant

A few days ago, Doc Searls wrote another of his trade-mark thought-provoking posts, this time on business as morality. And the Lakoff-Searls snowball took off in style after that, with a number of conversations and posts taking the ideas and making it their own.

Doc also told me about the relationship-before-conversation-before-transaction model he learned from an African pastor, something he refers to in his post and something I have always believed in. Following on from that original post, Doc pointed those that were interested to a post from AKMA, which  “affirmed the priority of grace (generosity, gratuity and giving) over other modes of interaction”.

This reminded me of something I have often discussed with my pastor, and something that in my mind brings together what Doc said and what AKMA posted.

For mode of interaction read type of relationship.

Contract versus covenant.

Both types of relationship use conversation as a basis to extend the relationship and to discover potential transactions. But there the similarity ends.

In a contract relationship, at the first sign of breach you look for recourse: What am I going to be get as a result of his error, how can I make money from his failure?

In a covenant relationship, at the first sign of breach you look for ways to fix it: What are we going to do together to solve this problem?

Covenant relationships exist between parents and children. They exist between family members, between people who have known each other for many years (such as schoolmates or past neighbours) between people who have shared life’s pleasures as well as pains.

When you work with a  start-up, having a contract relationship makes no sense at all. So when I experimented with young companies, it was always about “how to fix it” rather than “how to kill them”.

I used the same terms to think about relationships at work. Contract versus covenant. And I realised that some of my relationships were contract and some were covenant.

Now, as the years have passed, I wonder. I wonder why people have contract relationships at all.

If you can’t commit then don’t call it a relationship. For a relationship to exist there must be commitment on both sides.
And if you can commit and do commit, then live by grace.

4 thoughts on “Contract versus covenant”

  1. Thank you, I was researching this very topic and found your post to be the best definition of contract vs covenant.

  2. Wow searching for a definition of contract versus covenant for a church preach and found my friends definition to be one of the best !

Let me know what you think

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.