ECO: A Covenant Order
Last month I began a series of articles on three key words in the name of our new denominational home: ECO – A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. We looked at the word “covenant.” In steadfast love and mercy shown most clearly in Jesus Christ, God keeps covenant with us, committing to be our God, determined to be in personal relationship with us. In a similar way, in ECO we covenant to be in serious, intentional relationships through which we hold ourselves accountable to one another.
Now we turn to “order,” a word less well known to most us. Our Catholic friends are familiar with orders within the larger church – Benedictine, Franciscan, Trappist, etc. Those who live in an order commit to a shared way of life around a “rule,” or set of principles, that differentiates them.
In ECO, the idea of an order is not applied to a subset but rather to the denomination as a whole. All members of ECO commit to a shared way of life united around a shared theological core centered in Jesus Christ. This way of life is interested and engaged with the world, yet set apart, differentiated.
To follow the Jesus way, to commit to his “rule,” is challenging. Frankly, it is easier to hate our enemies than to love and pray for them. Frankly, it is easier to go along with culture (“everyone else is doing it – why shouldn’t I?”) than to speak a word to culture.
Drawing deeply from the 10 Commandments, the final section of the Essential Tenets of ECO illustrates what this ordered life looks like. Here are some examples:
- worship God alone, living all of life to His glory, renouncing all idolatry and all inordinate loves that might lead us to trust in any other help;
- eliminate from both speech and thought any blasphemy, irreverence, or impurity;
- eradicate a spirit of anger, resentment, callousness, violence, or bitterness, and instead cultivate a spirit of gentleness, kindness, peace, and love; recognize and honor the image of God in every human being from conception to natural death;
- maintain chastity in thought and deed, being faithful within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman as established by God at the creation or embracing a celibate life as established by Jesus in the new covenant;
- resist the pull of envy, greed, and acquisition, and instead cultivate a spirit of contentment with the gifts God has given us.
While we have breath in this life we will never perfectly follow the Jesus way. But the love of Christ is wide and long and high and deep (Ephesians 3:18), and under his grace we will keep trying.
The Essential Tenets conclude with these stirring words: In Jesus Christ we see the perfect expression of God’s holy will for human beings offered to God in our place. His holy life must now become our holy life. In Christ, God’s will is now written on our hearts, and we look forward to the day when we will be so confirmed in holiness that we will no longer be able to sin. As the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, Jesus leads us along the path of life toward that goal, bringing us into ever deeper intimacy with the Triune God, in whose presence is fullness of joy.
David Lenz, Lead Pastor