This morning I read Romans 4 and it got me thinking about the difference between a contract and a promise.
Contracts are based on terms and conditions. They are explicitly and legally binding. You must deliver whatever you outline at the outset and both parties willingly and knowingly agree to uphold their side. Once it’s been agreed upon, there is no element of choice built in, and no room for emotionalism. Anything you receive above and beyond what’s established is a bonus. And anything less is rightly means for a dispute or conflict. Within a contract, expectations are explicitly discussed and decided upon.
Promises, on the other hand, are more abstract. Promises require trust and emotion, and therefore come with the potential for betrayal and hurt. There also is the possibility of getting more than you were expecting or hoping for; the pleasant surprise, if you will. Promises can be verbally spoken or not consciously recognized at all. A promise is a choice, often given or received as a gift. Within a promise, expectations are rarely communicated.
Relationships are built on either contracts or promises. And while it’s important to recognize that they are very different from each other, I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other. What matters is appropriate discernment and perhaps recognizing the dangers and upsides within whichever arrangement you enter into.