In my previous post, I suggested that, theologically speaking, to be human is to be an economic migrant.
This is, of course, a vulnerable existence. And so human beings have always connected together in covenants. Just as our being economic migrants is rooted in God, so covenants are also rooted in God and in the relationship between God and humanity, Creator and created.
Covenants are based on the understanding that every person has a sphere of influence over which they are the autonomous (not absolute) ruler. Even a new-born baby, entirely dependent on its mother, exercises such power through crying. Even a dead boy on a beach has a sphere of influence – one extended exponentially through the spheres of influence of others, through the medium of social media.
Covenants are a way of extending our personal sphere of influence, not by conquering the sphere of influence of another, but by pooling our spheres with their combined resources.
This approach is rooted in God, the Ruler of the Universe, who, having established that human beings should rule the spheres of themselves and (collectively) of the earth, seeks covenant relationships in order to unite our spheres.
Covenants are built on our shared experience of being economic migrants. That is to say, I will share my resources with you, should you need them, because someone shared their resources with my ancestors when they were migrants and/or with me and/or I might need someone to share their resources with me and/or at some future point my descendants will need someone to share their resources with them.
This, too, is an experience God enters into, in Jesus – who first (in his incarnation) migrates from a fulfilled land in order to extend fruitfulness; and subsequently (as the child of a political refugee living beyond the borders of her own country, in Egypt) migrates in order to experience fruitfulness.
Covenants have, largely, been subsumed under less personal and more pragmatic alliances. But where these fail, covenants become visible again.
Families offering rooms in their homes for refugees might not be a fully thought-through response – though it is unlikely to be an offer made lightly. Further reflection reveals it to be something deeper than a desire that something, anything, should be done. Are we witnessing the return of the covenant? In this moment, it is too early to say: a covenant is not only a decision made, but a decision lived-out. But, in this moment, it is at least possible.