The context of faith and love in the Bible is covenant. Covenant is the basis for love and faith that is real and measurable. Faith without covenant is an empty belief that has no structure to define what faith believes to be true. Love without covenant is an empty feeling that has no commitment to loyalty and integrity in the relationship that is described as loving. Covenant is more than a contract between two parties, it is a promise that is secured by the life of the parties that are agreeing to the conditions.
Covenant is an instrument or a mechanism that it is used to solidify the nature and conditions of a relationship. The form of a Biblical covenant has two primary parts – the confession of the conditions of the covenant with words and the sealing of the covenant with blood. [A third part of a Biblical covenant is often a symbol of the covenant – a rainbow or circumcision, for example.] Thus, a covenant can be described as a “blood-washed vow.” The vow is the highest and most binding confession of words (Numbers 30, Matthew 5). Blood is used as a way of incorporating life and death into the bond of the commitment (Leviticus 17). This principle is demonstrated consistently in the Tanakh and is epitomized in the New Covenant in Yeshua’s life and death. The confession of conditions that is sealed in blood creates an eternal and permanent bridge between the two parties that enter into covenant. This bond is deep and everlasting and demonstrates the quality of God’s commitment to mankind and His expectation of our commitment to Him. Our covenant with God is complete and total and is without limitations or repentance.
As we come to understand the nature of relationships in the context of covenant in the Bible, it is important for us to understand the primary conditions of relationships in general – loyalty and integrity over time. In relationship with all people, believer and un-believer alike, we, as ambassadors of the Messiah Yeshua, demonstrate His character and the character of His Father to those that have yet to enter into the covenant of God. In our willingness to be trusting of others and faithful, at times to our own hurt, we can declare the permanent covenantal love of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to all those around us. Living a long life of loyalty and integrity in all relationships is part of our responsibility to participate in fixing the world in which we live.
In the modern era, there are only a few relationships between people that involve the shedding of blood and the confession of commitment, and they are limited to the nuclear family. When a man and woman are married, there is the confession of commitment that is followed by the shedding of blood in the consummation of the marital relationship. Likewise, when a woman gives birth to a child, there is a shedding of blood that creates an eternal bond between parent and child that has the condition of covenant. Additionally, circumcision of a male child involves the confession of the covenant with Abraham and Israel and the shedding of the blood of the foreskin. In summary, the relationship between man and wife, parents and children, and male children and Israel are the only present day relationships that involve cutting covenant.
In general, relationships between believers in Yeshua should involve principles of integrity and loyalty that are derived from a Biblical understanding of covenant. However, these relationships do not involve the confession of conditions that are sealed in the shedding of blood. Thus, relationships with others that are built on principles of covenant can be described as “covenantal relationships.” Relationships between believers in Yeshua are covenantal in nature because of the common bond of the confession of Yeshua as Savior by the shedding of His blood. Therefore, the highest degree of covenantal relationships are those that are made generally or specifically in the sharing of communion. Covenantal relationships between believers in Yeshua can be made to accomplish specific purposes like that between a congregational leader and congregants for the purpose of impacting a local area with the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Covenantal relationships are vital to successful team ministry. Yeshua applied these values with his disciples. He invested his heart and efforts in a select group of individuals with whom he devoted time and focus. Thus the principle of covenantal relationship was naturally incorporated into Yeshua’s ministry lifestyle. Yeshua saw their potential and chose them, while they responded and committed to follow him. Shortly before being arrested, Yeshua says to the disciples that they are no longer “servants” but rather they have become “friends” (John 15). If we follow Yeshua’s example, our team ministry will include training select individuals to be our friends, partners and successors. A covenantal context of discipleship necessarily involves covenantal values of integrity, which can specifically include: the ability to confront in due process with love and grace, a healthy atmosphere of learning without jealousy and gossip, mutual accountability and sacrificial assistance, commitment and longevity.
Lastly, the values of covenant and integrity serve to create in us a covenantal lifestyle. As we, as individuals, live a covenantal lifestyle, our commitment to integrity and loyalty will affect our behavior and relationships to all people. In his book Covenant Relationships, Asher Intrater explains that a covenantal lifestyle becomes what he calls “kingdom behavior” that applies to various spheres of life. These spheres include: 1) devotion and priority in the family, 2) respecting and praying for government leaders, 3) obeying the law and law-enforcers, 4) honesty in dealing with money including paying debts and taxes, 5) serving others and participating in community life, and 6) high work ethics in your place of employment including honoring bosses and co-workers. As we all live a covenantal lifestyle, we can become known as a covenantal people that demonstrate integrity, grace and love that epitomizes the love of Yeshua in our relationship with all people in every sphere of life.