In my second year of teaching I was transferred up country to the smallest high school in the state. There were only four specialist teachers there and we quickly learned to adapt our skills.  Between us, we taught every subject except woodwork. There were only thirty students in the school and, a couple of years down the track, they decided they now knew the teachers far too well for such a formal relationship. ‘The teachers and students,’ they announced, ‘are really friends.’

‘No,’ said the English teacher. ‘We’ve never shared breakfast with any of you.’

‘What’s that got to do with anything?’ the students asked.

‘A friend is a companion. Companion means with bread—it’s someone who shares your bread. You don’t really know someone until you’ve met with them for breakfast.’

I thought she was absolutely brilliant to come up this quick-witted rejoinder. The other teachers quietly congratulated her on her astute response, believing that she’d made an end of the matter. So none of us were quite prepared for the bowls of cornflakes that appeared the following day at the start of lessons.

Relationships change over time. Ideally they deepen and strengthen, sustaining and enhancing the bonds of love and compassion between people. Strangers become acquaintances, acquaintances become friends, friends become partners in business or mission or marriage.

When it comes to divine covenants, there’s a tendency to see them all as both instant and identical. All the different covenant types of Scripture have been smooshed down into the one-size-fits-all blood covenant. People often mistakenly think that because covenant is about ‘oneness’, then once you’re in union with another person, that’s it. Done deal. No more to add.

But this is to forget the different kinds of union we can form in life: the covenant of marriage is not the same as the covenant of adoption. Welcoming a child into the family is not the same as a covenant of friendship, such as that between David and Jonathan, nor is it the same as a covenant with a business partner or with the members of a local church. In ancient times, covenants between rulers were not the same as covenants between kings and their armour-bearers. Every covenant implied ‘oneness’, but there were various different kinds of ‘oneness’.

Generally it’s a theological maxim that, in a lightning flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the split second of salvation we become children of God, friends of God and the bride of Christ. But these are different kinds of relationship, different onenesses.

We’d reduced relationship to a click-of-the-fingers moment instead of an enduring commitment. Instead of understanding, as my high school students did, that relationships need to have stood the test of time in order for it to be possible for them to move to a different level. We’ve all too often trivialised relationship with God, faithfulness to Him and covenant fidelity.

Never ever forget, relationships take time.

This is Grace Drops; I’m Anne Hamilton. May Jesus deepen, strengthen and sustain your relationship with Him.

Thank you to Lorna Skinner of for the background music.

Covenant is at the heart of the Christian faith. It’s necessary to understand it in order to understand what can go wrong with it and how covenant violation affects our ability to come into our life’s calling. Dealing with Leviathan is a key book for understanding the dangers of the threshold.