Yes, Our Relationships Are the Mission

By J.D. Walt

Prayer of Consecration

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body as a holy and living sacrifice to you.

Jesus, We belong to you.

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Romans 14:19–23 (NIV)


Consider This

I began the conversation on Romans 14 with this bold declaration: Our relationships are the mission. 

I say this based on my reading of the whole Bible, most notably the New Testament, and particularly these words of our Lord, Jesus Christ:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20–21)

He is praying for two things here: (1) For us to be in relationship with each other in the same way as he and the Father are in relationship with each other (in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit); and (2) For our relationships to be anchored in and animated by the relationship between the Father and the Son (in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit). 

Why is this so important to Jesus? He could not be any more clear: The faith of the unbelieving world depends on the relationships of the people within the believing church. 

Hence, my declaration: Our relationships are the mission. 

But why? One word: love. The apostle John may have said it best: “God is love and those who live in love live in God and God in them” (1 John 4:16). The most sovereign demonstration of the power of God is the love of God and we need look no further than the cross. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we see the powerful, saving love of God on full display issuing forth in the justice, mercy, grace, and peace of God. The church Jesus is building is an ever-unfolding iconic revelation of these divine realities through the relationships of the people enfolded therein. If what people see in our relationships is a denial of what they read in the Bible we effectively give them a reason not to believe. 

Hear Paul to the Ephesians on this point:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1–3)

The bond of peace is the strongest bond in the cosmos and yet it is also quite fragile. It is as strong as the sovereign love of God and yet it is as vulnerable as the brokenness of people. On the one hand, when it comes to the church Jesus is building—the gates of hell will not prevail against it—and yet when the followers of Jesus engage in permissible behavior that causes one another to stumble in their faith it can create a crisis of New Testament proportions. In first-century Rome, it came down to what they were having for supper. 

From the first century to the twenty-first century, relational conflict within the church is a given. That’s not the issue. It all comes down to how we handle one another in the midst of it. In many ways, the history of the church is a history of conflict. Sometimes, especially when it comes to non-essential matters, the conflicts can be worked out and communities can reconcile. At other times, when the issues are entwined with more essential concerns, reconciliation may not be possible. Reconciliation or not, the peace of Jesus Christ is always available in our relationships. And it is imperative we make every effort to avail ourselves of this very costly peace. Remember, our relationships are the mission, regardless of the outcome. Peace can be made in the wake of the worst irreconcilable differences. Depart throwing roses; never rocks. 

In the third stanza of the magisterial hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” we get these words:

Tho’ with a scornful wonder,
we see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping,
their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

Let’s be clear. Our broken relationships within the church grieve the Holy Spirit and it may compromise the witness of Jesus through his church, but it neither disrupts nor disturbs the unity of the triune God. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ plays the long game. He has waited out many a hard-hearted bishop, suffered both necessary and needless schisms, made allowance for zealous fools, tolerated obstinate men and women, endured misguided heretics and absurd heresies, and allowed centuries to pass, yet all the while his truth is marching on. He may seem to lose a battle here and there—and even on our watch—but he will win the war.

Indeed, he has already won. 



Abba Father! Thank you for your son, Jesus, our Lord, who is the Prince of Peace. Keep us near the cross, day by day, hour by hour. Impress on us by your Spirit the importance of our relationships inside of the church. Holy Spirit, would you fill us with the love of God for one another; the love that is full of mercy and grace, that gives the benefit of the doubt, that forgives and makes peace, even when it is hard? Too much is at stake. Make our relationships places of your revelation. Make our relationships places where your mission of winning the world is accomplished. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.