16 June 2009

the foundations of a promise

I am a huge fan of crazy theories and doing the unexpected.

So one day I got to thinking about promises. Those I make and that I see made. The ones that people believe are implied and those that people need outlined in every single detail.

As I thought more about just how quick people are to promise things – I swear on my <insert important person>‘s grace, etc – and how in the long run most promises aren’t honored I realized something. What I realized was that, like a contract, a promise is generally required by party A from party B simply so that if/when party B fails to carry through with the agreement then party A will have justification for their anger/lack of forgiveness/guilt trip.

This is of course not the general idea that people think of when considering the concept of promises. What is the big deal about this and why should this be something we are aware of? What the cultural perception of a promise is has huge ramifications on how people go about their day. If you need people to give you a promise every time you ask them to do something it reflects that you have little faith in the people you live/work with and clearly don&rsquo;t trust them overly.

Promises are the Opposite of Trust.

When it comes to matters of faith this becomes a big deal again. Christians everywhere look to “The Promises of God.” Of course how this effects your life comes down to your understanding of what a promise is. For example if we look at the Promise God gave to Abraham that he would father a great nation, blah blah blah, we see something that doesn’t at all reflect our cultural understanding of promises. If Abraham had our understanding of a promise I think the exchange would have gone something like:

God: “Sacrifice the only son I just gave you”

Abraham: “You realize you have made me a promise already, AND he is kind of neccesary for you to carry through on your word.”

God: “I know I know, trust me I have it all under control”

Abraham: “Really? Doesn’t seem like you really do, I am getting kind of old and I don’t see a second child coming any too soon. Just don’t forget that you promised. Or Else”

Now this of course isn’t how it went. Instead Abraham TRUSTED God and went along with it and is later praised for his great faith.

I would suggest that genuine promises can be fulfilled while respecting trust, but you don’t even know that it was a “promise” until you look back and reflect on it.

I have seen too many people require promises of others instead of trusting. Too many christians judging others and requiring promises. Things likes promise rings or purity contracts are exactly the wrong thing for Churches and Christian groups to be pushing. They create environments of mistrust, judgement, and score keeping. All things that aren’t healthy or a part of showing love to someone else.

A promise is not something to be made or requested. A promise is something that is done.