I have often wondered at the words of Jesus about loving one another. What does it mean to lay down your life for a brother or sister? What does it mean to love one another as Christ loves us? Do we even begin to get anywhere near these things when we meet on Sundays or during the week? How do we love one another in practice?
The New Testament writers use the little phrase ‘one another’ many times. We are told to greet one another (Romans 16:16), accept one another (Romans 15:7), submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) and honour one another (Romans 12:10). We are to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18), build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), work with one another (1 Corinthians 3:9) and serve one another (2 Corinthians 13:12). We are told to ‘be devoted to one another in love’, to ‘honour one another above yourselves’ (Romans 12:10) and to ‘use your freedom to serve one another in love’ (Galatians 5:13).
Of course there are plenty more: forgiving, praying, offering hospitality, not grumbling, confessing sins, washing each other’s feet, the list goes on and on. You could do an internet search for a complete list and use it as the basis of personal study.
Howard Synder writes: “Many churches have a superficial idea (and experience) of community. Christian community is easily mistaken for mere cordiality, courtesy, or sociability. Often so-called Christian community is marked by nothing that is specifically Christian and nothing that challenges the values of surrounding pagan society.” He also points out that nearly all the ‘one another’ passages are imperatives—instructions about actual behaviours, not reminders of abstract spiritual truths we can enjoy meditating upon. He says, “the New Testament is full of these ‘one another’ injunctions precisely because Christians needed to be reminded of them.” We still do!
May I encourage you to go back through the list above and ask yourself how you might find practical ways of accepting, honouring, encouraging and serving one another? Work through the list this week, and every week! In doing so, we will be fulfilling Jesus’ vision for true community and fellowship.