Permission to Meddle: Covenant Life in the Body of Christ

Permission to Meddle: Covenant Life in the Body of Christ

Mar 18, 2016

by Nicholas J. Kersten

meddle [med-L]

verb (used without object), meddled, meddling.

  1. to involve oneself in a matter without right or invitation; interfere

officiously and unwantedly:

ex. Stop meddling in my personal life!

One of the ideas at the core of the life of local Seventh Day Baptist churches is that of covenants. Covenants are the documents that define the nature of the relationship that members of local SDB churches have to one another. In what is now common language among Seventh Day Baptists, many local church covenants contain a clause which includes the following statement (or something like it):

…we agree to watch over each other for good, to the intent that we may be built up together in Christ, grow in grace and further knowledge of the truth, and be

instrumental in bringing men to a saving knowledge

of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


There are several elements to this statement, but it begins with an interesting and invasive little phrase —“to watch over each other for good.” My predecessor in championing Christian Education among SDBs, the Rev. Andrew Camenga, is fond of using the word “incite” as a way of talking about what we do amongst ourselves to encourage each other in our sanctification. He takes his cue from Hebrews 10:24, where the author of that book encourages us to “spur one another on to love and good deeds,” (NIV). I think most Seventh Day Baptists, in a vacuum and devoid of context, would say that watching out for one another is a good thing. But no matter how you slice it, when it comes to someone watching over you, that is a very different animal.

We live in an individualistic and increasingly private culture. Cultural forces have pushed us into the mold of keeping our private lives private and steadfastly denying that anyone else can tell us what to do. Politicians play on such stubborn individualist streaks to sell all manner of ideas to their potential constituents. Entire television shows are devoted to the things that happen “behind closed doors,” calling such things “Reality TV.” Have you ever stopped to think about how odd it is that millions of people stop to watch fake reality on television rather than engaging in what is actually happening with their neighbor next door? It is possible that it has never been a further distance from your living room to your neighbors.

Counter to such individualistic and alienating thought is what we believe about what our churches should be: groups of people dedicated to one another entirely — where loving concern about the lives of others is not only welcomed, it is encouraged. To steal words and bend their meaning a little bit, participating as a covenant member in a Seventh Day Baptist church is giving your fellow church members “permission to meddle.” This is necessary, because a church represents the body of Christ and there is no such thing as segmentation of parts or privacy in a real live body. (If you want clearly marked parts separated from one another, you go to a morgue or a museum!) As Paul clearly reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12, the parts of a body all have a relationship with one another! Your local church is God’s gift of support, encouragement, and correction for you — part of the riches of his mercy and grace in Christ! If what we want are functioning bodies of loving care and concern, then lovingly engaging in the lives of others is the only way.

All of this naturally leads to two questions: who has permission to meddle in your life? In whose life do you have permission to meddle? If your answer to either question is, “no one!” it may be time to go back to the drawing board and look at the covenant of your local church. Then take the bold step of letting God’s people into your daily life.

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