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[1] 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.[2]


A. “To love one another” is commanded in several verses by means of verbs in the imperative mood.[3] 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.

 John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
 Romans 13:8 mandates that we must “Owe(!) no one anything except love to each another,” because the one who loves another has “fulfilled the law.” Compare Romans 12:10 (“love with brotherly affection”); 1 John 3:11 and 4:11, “We ought (=owe) to love one another.”; 1 John 4:12 (“If we love one another, God’s love is perfected in us.”)
 In 1 Peter love for one another is twice mandated: “love(!) one another(!)” (1 Peter 1:22); “love(!) the brotherhood!” (1 Peter 2:17).
 In other expressions: 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:3 (love “for one another is increasing.”; 1 Peter 1:22 (“love one another from a pure heart.”) ; 1 Peter 4:8 (“love one another earnestly.”); 1 John 4:7 (“let us love one another[4]).


B. “To encourage one another” is another imperative.

 1 Thess. 4:18 Therefore encourage(!) one another with these words.
 More “encouraging one another” verses: Romans 1:12; 1 Thess. 5:11; Hebrews 10:25.
 “To encourage one another” can be expressed through a variety of expressions: “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24); “admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16); “exhort(!) one another” (Hebrews 3:13).


C. “To live in harmony” with one another (or with similar words).

 Romans 12:16 Live in harmony (= “thinking the same thing” with one another.
 Also: Romans 15:5; 2 Corinthians 13:11 (“agree(!) with one another“).

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

 Ephesians 4:2 With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.
 Also: Colossians 3:13.


E. “To forgive one another”

 Colossians 3:13 Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
 Also: Ephesians 4:32


F. “To greet/welcome one another” – often “with a holy kiss.”

 Romans 15:7 Therefore welcome(!) one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
 Also (all with imperative verbs): Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14.


G. “To show acts of thoughtful consideration toward one another

 1 Corinthians 11:33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait(!) for one another.
 Also related: 1 Corinthians 12:25 (“having care for one another“); Ephesians 4:32 (“be(!) kind and tenderhearted to one another“); Ephesians 5:19 (addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”); Philippians 2:4 (“looking to the interests of others/each other.”); 1 Thessalonians 5:15 (“seek(!) to do good to one another“); James 5:16 (“confess(!) your sins to one another and pray(!) for one another“); 1 Peter 4:9 (“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”); 1 John 1:7 (“we have fellowship with one another“)


H. “To comfort one another

 2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice(!) Aim for restoration(!), comfort one another(!), agree with one another(!), live in peace(!); and the God of love and peace will be with you.


I. “To instruct (or, edify, build up) one another

 Romans 15:14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.


J. “To serve/submit to one another” – and similar expressions

 Ephesians 5:21 Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
 Also: Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5 (“clothe(!) yourselves with humility toward one another“)


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.

 Hinder one another. Romans 14:13
 Lie(!) to one another. Colossians 3:9
 Grumble(!) against one another. James 5:9
 Speak evil(!) against one another. James 4:11
 Pass judgment on one another. Romans 14:13
 Have lawsuits with one another. 1 Corinthians 6:7
 Bite and devour one another. Galatians 5:15
 (Watch out(!) that you are not) consumed by one another. Galatians 5:15
 Provoking one another. Galatians 5:26
 Envy one another. Galatians 5:26
 (Spouses) deprive one another (of intimacy). 1 Corinthians 7:5


  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


  1. NT = New Testament

  2. Scripture texts are taken from the ESV unless otherwise indicated.

  3. The symbol (!) in this essay indicates that the Greek form of the verb is in the imperative mood.

  4. The Greek verb is in the subjunctive mood, used as equivalent to an imperative – the so-called “hortatory subjunctive.”