We live in an age in which people like to think that their relationships have little to do with their faith. Our relationship with God is intensely personal, we insist, and has little to do with our interpersonal relationships. We live as though we can easily mistreat one another but still maintain a vibrant relationship with God.

This is not a challenge that is unique to our era. Malachi’s hearers struggled with the same misconception, and God addressed it head-on through his prophet.

You will remember that Malachi is a book about worship. It is about the way that God’s people, freshly returned from exile, with a newly-constructed temple, were failing to honour him with their worship. One way in which they were failing to do so was in their relationships.

In 2:10–16, Malachi lists three ways in which his contemporaries were failing in their relationships. He describes each of these failures as faithlessness (vv. 10, 11, 14). Even as they claimed to worship God, they were faithless in their interpersonal relationships, which God interpreted as failure in their worship.

The first relational area in which they were showing faithlessness was in general relationships (v. 10).  God cared how they treated one another. He considered mistreatment of one another to be a profaning of the covenant. He was not impressed when people came to worship him while holding a grudge against a brother or sister. The grudge negatively affected their worship.

The second relational area in which they were showing faithlessness was in their marriages to unbelieving spouses (vv. 11–12). God had plainly forbidden his people from marrying idolaters, warning that it would negatively impact their worship. They had ignored his warning, but the Lord here reiterated the seriousness of this transgression. Those who disobeyed in this way were to be “cut off from the tents of Jacob.”

The third relational way in which they were showing faithlessness was in their violation of the marriage covenant (3:13–16). They came to God in worship even as they flagrantly violated their marriage vows by divorce without biblical warrant. This was not a personal choice with no affect on their worship. God openly rejected the worship of those who so flagrantly violated this most intimate covenant.

The lesson that his people needed to learn was that the way they treated one another affected their worship. They could not treat one another with disdain throughout the week and then expect God to receive their worship on the Sabbath. Bowing to his will in daily relationships was an act of worship and could not be divorced from corporate worship. God calls us to be a people of radical integrity and faithfulness in all our interpersonal dealings. Lamar Smith says it well:

We cannot be disrespectful or arrogant with any other human and expect to push the humble button when we approach God. Our relationship with our fellow humans is woven together with our relationship to God. Even our worship of him is enhanced or contaminated by how we treat others. Humility before our brothers and sisters through respect and love toward them is an act of worship and it warms the heart of our Father.

It is an act of extreme hubris to believe that we can mistreat one another still offer to God worship that is acceptable in his sight. Jesus taught as much in the Sermon on the Mount: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23–24). Relationships affect worship.

Do you have a strained relationship with a brother or sister in Christ—friend, family, spouse? Don’t think that you can leave that strain unaddressed and still bring to God acceptable worship. Relationships impact worship.

As you meditate this morning on Malachi 2:10–16, ask God to reveal to you the relationships that you need to repair so that you can offer acceptable worship to him. Go. Be reconciled. Then offer your sacrifices to God.