Recently someone in our fellowship used the word contract to describe the unspoken understanding between people that allows sin to go unaddressed among Christians. I got a glimpse of how this evil contract has worked in my life. The parties to the contract each get something for them-selves in exchange for putting up with sinful behavior on the other’s part. Here are a couple of examples of how it works.
Let’s Make a Deal!
When I whine to you about all my problems without truly seeking a new way of dealing with them, I am choosing to remain in darkness. What I want for myself is attention and pity–some payoff for the pain I’ve gone through. But you, listening sympathetically to me over and over again, also get some-thing for yourself–the feeling of importance or superiority. Here’s another example: I act like everything’s normal when I see you do something that hurts others because I don’t like the discomfort of confronting you. What you get out of this arrangement is that you can continue with your behavior without seeing how it affects others. And another: I act upbeat and cheerful with a smile pasted on my face even at inappropriate times, calling myself "good-natured"; by not pointing out my insensitivity, you get to stay uninvolved and tell yourself "no harm’s done."
The insidiousness of this kind of contract is that there is more involved than simply tolerating the other’s selfish behavior. Because neither of us is a "just me," there is more at stake than merely an isolated incident that can be ignored and forgotten. At every moment in time, I am either operating from the truth–that as a Christian I am joined to and operated by Jesus Christ, expressing His self-for-others nature (Galatians 2:20). Or, I am operating from the lie that I am "just me," which allows Satan to operate me and live out his selfish, apathetic, mean, manipulative nature through me (Romans 7:20). In the contract with another person to excuse my wrongful behavior or ignore theirs, I am believing that there is a better way than simply trusting who I am and giving an honest response.
For me, the payoff is giving in to my feelings (soul), rather than making a distinction between my soul (feelings and thoughts) and my spirit, which is in union with and operated by the selffor-others nature of Jesus Christ. Satan’s lie starts with me thinking that it is easier to ignore than to address issues that will make me uncomfortable or possibly bring up negative reactions in others. Easier at a feeling level, possibly. But on a spirit level, Jesus Christ is out for their benefit, no matter how that may be received by others and no matter how that feels.
Whether between two people or among a group, it is tempting to be dishonest for the sake of feeling connected with others. Communicating between two people can be a very intimate contract, no matter what the relationship of the two. It feels closed, safe, personal, and each person feels good by agreeing not to question the other’s behavior. It is easier to enable unbelief (sin) because there is no one from the outside to contribute another view of what is being said or done. Among a group of people, the contract feels secure in a different way: the more people who abide by it, the more accept-able and legitimate everyone feels about their behavior.
So what is the effect of this kind of behavior? Satan seeing and Satan doing. Because I am not seeing myself for who I really am (a Christ-operated vessel), I become a perpetrator (Satan’s agent) judging you, justifying my own Satan behavior, and condoning more and more sin. Innocent victims outside the "contractees" usually are affected, too. History is full of examples of conspiracies–people openly doing evil or passively condoning it–and the corruption and pain that results. Ultimately, the perpetuation of such evils as incest and the Holocaust can be traced to such contracts.
Dealing with the Devil
And woe to anyone who breaks the contract! Often when individuals call attention to sin or to the damage resulting from this self-serving, silent conspiracy, they find their views rejected and themselves hated and assailed. Refusing to be part of this kind of thing, or confessing when I have been, feels very risky–I risk anger, judgment, broken friendships. But since it’s actually a contract with the devil, I am risking more to consent, to go along with the others (and it is a matter of choice).
Layers of Lies
As with all other temptations, the attraction of having a contract to con-done or ignore sin starts by believing a series of lies. The first lie is that I have some need that may go unmet. Underlying that lie is the assumption that God is insufficient to meet my needs, so I have to rely on my own way to deal with life. That mocks the purposes and power of the God who created and sustains everything, including me! Jesus addressed that lie in Matthew 6:31-33 where He reminds us that God already knows our every need and as surely as He cares for the needs of the birds and flowers, He will take care of the needs of those who live for Him.
A more subtle aspect of this lie is the mistaken concept that there is a choice for me called my way. Either Christ operates me or Satan operates me; there is no independently-operated "me," so there is no independent my way! If I am a Christian believing that Christ is living His life by me and my life shows it by lining up with the scriptures, I am merely His Spirit living through a unique human vessel named "Gail," not a just me relying on my way as Galatians 2:20 says, "not I, but Christ lives in me." The correct "my way" is actually Jesus Christ living His honest life without contracts, no matter what that feels like or how others may react.
On the other hand, any time I return to believing the old lie of my (independent) way, Satan takes over, masquerading as me, living his selfish, self- serving, manipulative life. And all along he is convincing me that I need to feel safer and more comfortable and, therefore, must go along with unacceptable behavior. Thus, Satan runs things and uses me to hook others into his destructive behavior. Of course I don’t see that Satan is running me at the time. All I know is that I want/need something from the other person, and I will do anything to get it (no matter who I have to mow down in the process). Usually I further obscure the truth by believing that I have "good intentions."
Breaking the Contract
Being in close fellowship with people who are living from the truth of Galatians 2:20 and who call sin by its right name has helped me to see how I have been Satan’s agent of selfishness. I am learning to counter my initial fears and negative reactions with faith that Christ is totally sufficient for each situation and perfectly in control of all external circumstances.
Jesus Christ is totally righteous; therefore Christ/I is forthright and honest with myself and others, knowing that the outcome (no matter how it initially looks or feels) is Him living His righteous life out by me. I do not need to make contracts with others that con-done sinful behavior–that is Satan’s fruit and results in destruction all the way around.
It has not been easy to give up the contracts and put all my faith in God. I need the accountability of being open and honest with others about my thoughts and feelings, and I need to own up to it when I have acted out in unbelief. I also need their (Christ’s) reactions and feedback.
Moreover, I am learning that the temptation to see myself as an alone, needy person, is an opportunity to re-affirm that I am merely a vessel through whom the God of all supply wishes to live. He is honest, open, and totally for the benefit of others; there-fore, I am also. When I believe the opposite, Satan’s great lie that I am one and needy, I easily make a con-tract with sin.
There is no room for Satan contracts among believers. Breaking a self-serving contract starts by admitting to ourselves and others any dishonest, selfish behavior and by calling it by its right name–SIN. That clears away the excuse for maintaining the contract and reveals the underlying lie that we are self-operating and in need. Finally we can take the opportunity to apply faith by re-affirming the wonderful fact that "not I, but Christ lives in me" and He is fully sufficient to live a righteous life–without contracts!
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 13 No 1
- Editor’s Note
- Moments with Meryl
- God’s Stormtroopers
- A Look at a Book
- A Christmas Letter
- Safety in the Crossfire!
- Food for Body, Soul & Spirit at the NY Conference
- To Think About…
- Questions & Answers
- The Mailbox
- The Contract
- The Self Can’t Be Improved
- Tape Talk
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- The Way of Release
- God’s Standards Have Not Changed: British Fall Conference
- Words to Live By
- One Lesson