Why, in the middle of a passage about relationships, does Paul tell us to keep up our zeal in serving the Lord? Because serving the Lord zealously is a key to our relationships. If we thought our relationship with God and with others fell in two different categories, we were wrong. The two are wrapped up together: how we serve God has a lot to do with how effectively we relate to others.
That’s true at a number of levels: our motives for serving God and others are the same; our love for God is to translate into love for His people; and our means of serving God and others overlap. Our feelings for God and our feelings for people must be integrated.
That’s important to know, because the hard work of interpersonal relationships often saps our zeal. Conflict can drain us personality differences can irritate us, and growth in depth and intimacy can require more energy than we think we have. Sometimes in the midst of our dealings with other people we can lose heart or give up. Paul tells us not to. Why? Because it’s not a people issue; it’s a God issue.
Understand that God made you for service and ministry, and when you serve other people, you are serving Him. Don’t let disappointments of relationships drain you or distract you–those relationships are still His work. That is where God has called you and equipped you to serve. Under His guidance you will need to determine how much to invest in each of your relationships and how to manage the seasons that will inevitably transform them, but you can’t be halfhearted about them. There are examples in Scripture of relationships being appropriately ended or suspended, but there is never an instruction to be apathetic about them.
Approach your relationships with zeal and faithfulness, as though they were issues between you and God rather than issues between you and others. In many ways, they are.