Covenant is used in Christian circles today in two ways: God's relationship to His people and marriage.
Our covenant with God is called a patron covenant. A biblical example can be found between Abraham and God in Genesis. It's when someone superior, in this case God, binds themselves to an inferior party, Abraham, for the inferior party's benefit. "I will be your God and you will be my people." (Leviticus 26:12) God's covenant with Abraham extends to anyone who believes in Jesus Christ. The patron covenant says no matter what we do, God will love us and be our Help.
A modern day patron covenant may be a parent and child relationship. I bind myself to my infant, knowing full well he/she is dependent on me for life, and I will never leave nor withdraw my love no matter how he/she behaves.
Marriage is a parity covenant. Two equal parties are bound by oath. We can see this example in Genesis as well when Adam and Eve become "one flesh".
Characteristics of a covenant:
- extend beyond circumstance and feelings
- one (patron) or both (parity) parties give their word, reputation, and whole self to fulfill the oath
- cannot be broken*
*In cases of divorce I conclude no covenant was made in the first place. To break a "covenant oath" made on your wedding day implies your whole self was never fully in it to begin with. The marriage covenant is too significant to enter into lightly. Ending the "one flesh" union can only be described as tearing one's own body apart limb from limb.