Relating to “One Another” in the Family of God
No child of God is an isolated island; rather, each of us is a part of a huge family. The Bible teaches us that, as members of God’s family, there are certain expectations of us and duties that we have to “each other” or to “one another.” A concordance search of the NT for these two expressions brings to light dozens of passages that identify areas of life wherein we are exhorted to interact for mutual benefit.
The first and most important commitment that we have as Christians is to love one another. This is made explicit in fifteen passages of the NT (see section “A” below). In six verses love is expressed not merely as an option, but rather as a commandment: John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Romans 13:8 (the ‘law’); 1 John 3:23 (2x); 2 John 1:5. The command to love one another is general in application, but most adult members of a family have a basic understanding of how, when, where and for whom showing love is appropriate. It is in the doing or in the details that we get bogged down. The opportunity to demonstrate love will often come at an inconvenient time or will come at a cost. If love for a sister or brother is not a priority for us, we quickly find ways to justify neglect or to excuse unloving actions. Therefore, we ought to establish love for one another as a high priority both in principle and in practice.
Other NT passages that employ the terms “each other” and “one another” effectively give specific details of how to apply the first principle of love. A quick look at these passages will help us gain a good perspective on our obligation to love one another. Here are categories and representative verses that instruct and guide in the application of this important obligation.
A. “To love one another” is commanded in several verses by means of verbs in the imperative mood. John 13:34-35 makes this very clear. In four other verses love is also commanded: John 15:12, 17; 1 John 3:23; 2 John 5. And in still other verses it is identified as a commandment.
B. “To encourage one another” is another imperative.
C. “To live in harmony” with one another (or with similar words).
There is a close connection between living in harmony and the next two categories. If we are to live in harmony, we will often need to “bear with one another” and even, when necessary to “forgive one another.”
D. “To bear with one another“
E. “To forgive one another”
F. “To greet/welcome one another” – often “with a holy kiss.”
G. “To show acts of thoughtful consideration toward one another“
H. “To comfort one another“
I. “To instruct (or, edify, build up) one another“
J. “To serve/submit to one another” – and similar expressions
K. “Do not do X to one another” – a number of things are to be avoided or even prohibited in our interactions with fellow believers. Do not do the following.
As is clear from the references given above, love for one another is extremely important for believers as they interact. It repeated in many verses, it is categorized as a command and commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is exhorted for all believers by means of the strong language of imperative verbs. But this love is not vague in its application. The Scriptures give us lots of detail on how to put this love into practice. May the Lord give us motivation and wisdom as we strive to show love for one another.
By Theron Young
NT = New Testament
Scripture texts are taken from the ESV unless otherwise indicated.
The symbol (!) in this essay indicates that the Greek form of the verb is in the imperative mood.
The Greek verb is in the subjunctive mood, used as equivalent to an imperative – the so-called “hortatory subjunctive.”