18th September 2020
“Be at peace with each other.” “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” “Honour one another above yourselves.” “Accept one another.” “Carry each other’s burdens.” “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other.” “Encourage one another and build each other up.” “Spur one another on towards love and good deeds.” “Love one another.” It’s a beautiful picture, undeniably attractive. Who wouldn’t want to be part of such a community?
It’s a picture of the church, the Christian community as it’s meant to be. Those are just some of the ‘one another’ or ‘each other’ commands given to Christians in the New Testament. There are more than sixty in all, and more than forty different ones. That’s a lot of ‘one anothering’!
But why? And why so many? It’s because Christians are the people of the ‘One Another’ God – who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and so we are ‘One Another’ people. We can’t help it. At the start of his first letter, the apostle John says that “our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son,” and so “we have fellowship with one another”. God is in fellowship with himself. We are in fellowship with him. And so we are in fellowship with one another. We just are. The only question is how well we do it.
The ‘One Another’ commands are of two kinds. Some reflect the shared life of God, doing the things that God does. For example: “We should love one another.” “Live in peace with each other.” “Serve one another in love.” Those are the things that God does. Others recover the shared life of God, undoing the effects of our sin. For example: “Let us stop passing judgment on one another.” “Do not lie to each other.” “Bear with each other.”
These commands are, well, commands. God expects us to keep them, for our shared life to reflect his. But they’re hard. They don’t come naturally. Our culture is very individualistic, and we ourselves are intrinsically selfish. But they’re possible. God has shared his life with us, and given us his Spirit. And he never commands the impossible.
During lockdown, a lot of us have spent a lot of time on our own. And it’s natural to think primarily of myself and what I’m getting out of something, including church. This ‘one anothering’ challenges me to think of others, and what I can do for them. Because the people of the ‘One Another’ God are a ‘One Another’ people. As John says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.”
Lord, thank you for sharing your life with us. Help us to share that life with others. Amen.