Ever heard of commodification? It is a sociological term that is defined as the process by which social relationships are reduced to economic exchange relationships. You probably have a commodified relationship with your grocery store. You say “Hi” to the clerks and customer service staff. You are comfortable with the store. But the relationship is based on the fact that they are giving you a good product at a fair price. But if you find another store, a little closer to home that a gives you a better product and a better price its “Goodbye old store and hello new store!”
Why? Because your relationship with that store is not as important as your personal needs. That is a commodified relationship. Nothing wrong with that.
But Christ-followers also have covenant relationships. These are radically different in nature. We have covenant relationships with our children, marriages, friendships and churches. In these we are far more concerned with the relationship than we are with our own personal needs. Much to my discomfort, my wife would often feed our children before she fed me or even herself. When she and I got married we exchanged rings, said some vows, signed a document. We entered a life-long covenant.
But an amazing phenomenon has occurred in my generation where we have commodified our covenant relationships. That means we approach our social relationships and say something like “I will be the spouse I am supposed to be as long as you are the spouse you are supposed to be. I will be the friend I am supposed to be as long as you are the friend you are supposed to be. I will be the church member I am supposed to be as long as you are the church you are supposed to be…I will meet your needs as long as your are meeting my needs.”
In a covenant relationship each person meets the needs of the other person even if their own needs are not being met. In a covenant relationship I say “I will be the spouse I am supposed to be even if you are never the spouse you are supposed to be. I will be the friend I am supposed to be even if you are never the friend you are supposed to be. I will be the pastor I am supposed to be even if you are never the church you are supposed to be.”
How many friendships are torn asunder because we have commodified them? How many marriages are fragmented beyond repair because we choose to relate to each other like we do a grocery store? And churches are hindered from establishing a beachhead on enemy shores because of an “exchange relationship.”
I am saddened when I hear someone say I am going to separate from my spouse because I have to start taking care of my needs. I am heartbroken when I see people leave a church because the church is no longer meeting their needs. I am infuriated when I see a pastor leave a church because there is a prettier, wealthier and more prestigious church that will help his long-term career. Churches are reduced to mistresses when that happens. And it happens all the time.
I am so glad Jesus didn’t commodify His relationship with me. “Joe, I will be the savior I am supposed to be as long as you are the Christian you are supposed to be.” Or “I can’t go to the cross right now, because after three years of pouring myself out with these slow-witted disciples I need to start taking care of me and my relationship with the Father.”
May there be a clear line between my covenant and my commodified relationships.
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27