John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”
In this study I want to talk about a phrase mentioned over seventy times in the New Testament. The fact that it is mentioned so often means it is important. That phase is “one another.”
Wait a minute you say “one anothering – God’s crucible of love?” I don’t get it. My friend, if we will truly do what God asks of us when it comes to our relationships with one another, then we are in for two things:
Ø One, it will cost us. Rough edges will be knocked off us, we will be vulnerable, we will need to be transparent, and we will no longer be able to hide.
Ø Secondly we are in for greater blessings then we ever thought possible, as we learn to minister, and be ministered to, out of the love of God, which has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.
It is a powerful thing for God to be seen in the individual, but it is exponentially greater still, for God to be seen in a community of believers.
Therefore it is my prayer that through this study we will gain a fresh appreciation of how God intends for us to relate to one another, and a willingness to make a fresh commitment to live in community.
There is gold to be found in God’s word so let’s go exploring!
Rom 15:7 “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
All through life being accepted is important to us. It is something we all need. It starts from the earliest of ages.
I remember as a 12 year old when we would choose teams for a sporting game. We would decide on 2 captains then all stand around waiting to be picked. If we were the last picked it was difficult for us. If we were the 1st then we felt accepted and needed. A feeling of self-worth, or otherwise starts at an early age.
The word accept used here in Rom 15:7 means to “take to oneself, admit (to friendship or hospitality)”
As Christians we should be the most accepting group of people in the world, because though we didn’t deserve it and could never earn it, we ourselves have been accepted by God. Eph 1:6 tells us “he has made us accepted in the beloved.”
God has accepted us into His family. His acceptance of us is not based on our worthiness or seeming importance in this world. God accepts us because He loves us and sent his Son to shed his blood for our sins. We love Him because He 1st loved us.
When the Bible says that we are “accepted in the beloved,” it means that by grace we have been indued with special honour and are highly favoured.
By grace, brothers and sisters, we need to accept one another as they say “warts and all.” After all, that is how God accepted us. Who are we to demand perfection of others when God never demanded it of us? We are all in Christ walking the same road but we are not all the same (thank God). We must learn to accept each other and live in community.
Rom 16:16 “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
What we are looking at here is the word “greet.” It means: to “enfold in the arms, welcome, embrace”
This does not mean we are to hug everyone weather we know them or not (in fact a deacon at a church I attended got punched in the nose for trying to hug someone who was not ready to be hugged! Discretion is the better part of valor). What it does mean though is that each of us must feel enfolded by love and acceptance when we are in one another’s presence.
No doubt many have heard the wonderful story about the unkempt man who wandered into a “respectable” church...
There were no spare seats so he sat in the isle near the front. Most of the church was aghast. From the back an elderly man with a walking stick got up and slowly made his way towards the “riff raff” in the isle. Many wondered at his intentions. After what seemed like an eternity, with all the church wondering what would happen next, the elderly man reached the unkempt fellow. Did he reprimand him? Did he politely but firmly tell him to find a seat? No. Slowly and deliberately he sat down next to him. Through that simple yet profound act he showed the man that he was accepted. In Gods family that is how it should be.
Rom 12:10 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
Devoted it s a beautiful word. It means to “cherish, hold in ones heart, protect, and treat with affection.”
If devoted is a beautiful word then for me the word “cherish” is one of the most wonderful in the English language. What a beautiful way to describe how we are to relate to one another. Born of a sincere love, we are to hold one another in our hearts, nurture, and protect each other.
Then we are to honour each other. Honour means to “value, esteem, dignify and treat as precious.”
There are two places from which we derive our esteem.
Ø The 1st is from God. We know that he esteems us because of the price he paid to win us and his continuing goodness towards us.
Ø The second place from which we derive esteem is from others. We know that the world will not build us up unless there is something in it for them. More often then not the norm is for us to be put down. In Australia we have what is called the “tall poppy syndrome.” What this means is that as soon as someone meets with success there is a tendency for others to try and cut them down or bring them back to the field.
Gods’ community is to be different. We are to be devoted to and honour one another. Brothers and sisters if we, as God’s children won’t esteem one another, then who will?
Eph 4:2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
My mum and I used to laugh at the story of a child bringing home a report card that said the student “is trying.” Did that mean “trying” as in difficult or “trying” as in making the effort? Lets face it there is a little of both meanings in all of us.
Bearing with one another means to “hold ones self up against, or to put up with.”
I remember a famous wartime picture that showed one soldier holding another who was bandaged on his head and arm. The wounded soldier needed support. Sometimes you need support. Sometimes I do.
God’s community is to be a place where support is to be found. There is an old saying, “why are we 1st to kill our own wounded?” How sad - but how true, that in the church we have been so quick to do that. It is wrong. We are to care for each other while always remembering that it is God’s grace alone by which any of us stand.
We all have different forces at work in our lives – stresses, difficulties and challenges. Some of us face physical challenges, or we might have blown it big time and be feeling like “what’s the use.” Or we may be having relationship difficulties. Sometimes I need you to hold me up, or just to put up with me. Always I need for you to be looking out for me, and it is what God requires of me on your behalf also.
Gal 6:2 Tells us to “bear one another’s burdens.” Although it is a cliché it is still true that a burden shared is a burdened halved. Most of us know and love the “Footprints” poem which tells the story of two sets of foot prints on the beach becoming one and how the person asked “Lord why did you leave me?” and the Lord responded “I did not leave you – I carried you.” The fact is that God uses people, and when we need carrying, chances are, God will use a brother or sister to be the instrument of His love and mercy.
Eph 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
1 Cor 12:25 “..so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
God means for us to forgive each other just as He forgave us. That means beyond 70 times 7. Life for all of us holds its share of hurts, and forgiving may not be easy. Friends betray us, and life long relationships come undone. But no matter how justified we feel in holding an offense to our heart, we cannot. Nothing hinders our access to the presence of God like unforgiveness.
Despite how difficult we may find it, we need to take our hurt to the throne of God and allow him to minister to our hearts, until we can honestly say (and know it is true) that we forgive the one who offended us. We have an eternity to spend with our brothers and sisters. Unforgiveness will not be accepted in God’s kingdom – either in the here and now or beyond the grave.
To have “equal concern” (1 Cor 12:25) for each other means the concern we have for others should be the same we have for ourselves. This is the heart of Christianity. Loving God and our neighbour as our-selves. It takes a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives for this to be possible – but it is possible or Jesus would not have asked it of us.
John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
I find it interesting that our Christian witness is not judged by how much we fast, pray, or study Gods’ word but by our love for each other. Thank God for that!
A spiritual giant is not measured in earthly terms of accomplishment, but by the love of God for others exhibited through their lives. The 1st step in evangelism is not handing out tracts, but loving our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.
The word “love” here refers to a “love feast” or a feast of charity. How good is that?!
The love we are to have for each other is not “just enough and no more” but it is an overflowing abundance of love. 1 Thess 3:12 brings this out, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”
The word abound means to “super abound in quantity or quality and to be in excess; enough and to spare.” We sing the beautiful song “He is more than enough, He is El Shadai the God of plenty.” Praise God and He is! Is our love for each other the same? More than enough? God means for it to be.
Rom 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
Most of what God teaches us is not for ourselves alone. Just as a mother is nourished so that she in turn can nourish her family, so too we are fed and taught by God that we may be able to impart a word in season to our brothers and sister.
To instruct includes to “put another in mind.” That is, to share with them what God has shown us. This may mean gently reproving or cautioning. Of course this works best if there is an obvious love in the relationship.
Recently I have gotten closer to someone in our church. I don’t always agree with what they do, but only now am I starting to feel that I can share my concerns and where I am coming from and not be a threat. Why? Because we are building a relationship of trust.
Col 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
We must never forget that the 1st step in instructing one another is to have the word of Christ dwelling in us richly. God does not want us pooling our ignorance. He wants us all growing in grace, and ministering out of the life of Christ that dwells in us and is outworked through us.
Heb 3:13 “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
1 Thess 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
God wants us building each other up. Like building a house. There are many components to a house. The fact is, I may be the brick that sits under you in the structure. How much sense does it make for me to be pulling you down? None at all; because in pulling you down I am doing the same to myself. Therefore it is a matter of “enlightened self interest” for us all to strengthen each other so that the structure of our fellowship stands firm.
Gal 5:13 “For you, brothers, were called to freedom. Only don’t turn your freedom into an opportunity to gratify your flesh, but through love serve one another.”
To serve is literally or figuratively “to be a slave”.
This is where it starts to get heavy and many who have not been able to stand the heat have gotten out of the kitchen! Jesus washed the disciple’s feet. He who would be great in God’s kingdom must be the servant of all. The disciple is not above his master. By washing the disciples feet Jesus was showing us the essence of the servant heart. Again to serve is to “wait upon.” This is not grandiose is it? It is menial. It is getting down and dirty with the family of God. It is bearing each others burdens. It is putting others before our self. It is loving.
1 Peter 4:10 “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
James 5:16 “Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” International Standard Version
Make a habit of confessing my sins to others?!! God is kidding right? Wrong. This is real “rubber meets the road” stuff.
There are a couple of conditions that must be met before we can confidently do this.
Ø First we must have a real trust in those to whom we confess. It can only happen when believers are in relationship, real relationship.
Ø Not the hand shaking “have a good week but I don’t expect to be thinking about you till I see you again.”
“Relationship” is born of intimacy, and a concern for you as my brother or sister. It has its genesis in time spent before the throne of grace on you behalf.
I am ready to weep when I think of how far short we fall of real Christian relationships. How many people can we trust like this? Yet God has told us to confess our sins to one another.
Ø Secondly the person or persons to whom we confess must have the power to influence. I don’t take car problems too a florist. I take them to a mechanic. I will not confess my sins to you if you do not have a meaningful relationship with the One who has the capacity to effect change in my life.
That is why prayer must follow confession. Prayer does not change things. God to change things by answered prayer. This is especially true in a corporate (for want of a better word) environment.
o Where 2 or 3 are gathered together in His name He is in the midst.
o One can put 1,000 to flight while 2 displaces 10,000!
It is in the prayer realm that the power of one anothering can effect massive change.
One reason confessing to one another is so difficult for us is pride. We strut about like we have got it all together. We act like image is everything. Image is nothing!
It is the truth that sets us free. The truth can only set us free when we are true to our God, one another and ourselves. Christians can so easily fall into the trap of thinking that they must appear to have it all together for unbelievers to want what we have. But whom do you relate best to – someone who is “perfect” or someone who struggles like you do? The difference is not that we are perfect but that we have the answer.
Unbelievers will respond to God by seeing us experiencing the same struggles they do but finding our strength and courage through the Lord Jesus Christ and our love and care for one another. Jesus was in all points tempted just like us. I can relate to that. What I can’t relate to is someone who appears ok, but will not let me get close enough to find out the truth and allow me to minister to them.
The word “heal” means to “make whole.” It is through my being honest with you and you praying for me that I can be made whole. My friends, I need you and you need me.
Eph 4:16 “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
The word “held” here is interesting. It has two senses of meaning.
Ø Firstly it means: “to unite (in association or affection), knit together.” This is what God means for us to do voluntarily, simple because He has told us to.
Ø Secondly it means “to force; to drive together.”
Brothers and sisters the day may be near at hand where our relationship with our fellow believers will be clandestine. It is already like that in many nations. Let us work together at building relationships while it is still day. The night may be near when the liberty of open fellowship we presently enjoy is but a fond memory.
1 Cor 12:12 “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.”
Rom 12:4 “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”
My friends thank you for reading this far. As I said at the beginning - my goal has been that through this study we will gain a fresh appreciation of how God intends for us to relate to one another, and a willingness to make a fresh commitment to live in community. If I may, I would like to pray with you now.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for who You are and what You have done. Lord we are reminded that though You are One, You live in a community of three in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Father we pray now that You would help us to apply your word to our lives, that You would show us what “one-anothering” really means. Help us to build meaningful relationships with each other. God, cause our love for each other to be a beacon to the unsaved, that they may truly know that we are your disciples by our love for each other. This we ask in the wonderful name of Jesus. Amen.
1 Thess 3:12 “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”