The phrase “one another” is repeated over 100 times in the New Testament. This comes from the Greek word allelon which means “one another, each other; mutually reciprocally.” Most of these passages are addressing how – and sometimes how not – to treat our neighbors, friends, and families.
When a phrase is repeated in the biblical text, it is generally a signal to the reader that this idea is important. The fact that the authors mention over and over what relationships should look like in the context of being a Christ follower is a hint that God cares deeply about what our communities should look like. An essential piece of following Christ is lived out in our relationships. We are to be the “salt and light” of the world (Matthew 5:13-16) meaning that our lives are meant to mirror our maker. We bring creativity, light, love, and joy into a world that is caught struggling against the powers of evil and death.
What do these New Testament Scriptures about “one another” teach? What does a relationship as a follower of Jesus look like? Let’s explore some of these verses to see if we can begin to understand what God desires the Christian community to be!
1. Be Kind to One Another
My mom had us memorize Ephesians 4:32 at a very young age because it emphasized kindness and forgiveness, two qualities that can be challenging to embody with your siblings. Now as a mom, I find myself reciting to my kids to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We all seem to need this reminder often.
The idea of being kind to each other is repeated in other verses in the New Testament, making it a theme that we should take a moment to consider. Colossians 3:12-15 give us a long list of ways we need to treat each other with kindness, humility, compassion, and more.
Kindness is a term that overlaps with many other ideas around how we are called to treat other people. Those who are kind are selfless, compassionate, humble, and merciful. When we think of kindness, we think of generosity, right living, and integrity.
To live this command to be kind to one another, we need the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. On our own, kindness is often difficult to live out. Human generosity is limited but God’s kindness abounds. Invite the Spirit to illuminate how you can best treat those around you with kindness. Rely on him to strengthen your heart when you feel weary in giving understanding. Remember that God’s way feels unreasonable to us, but we have to trust that he’s got us when we are giving out compassion and our hearts want to respond with negativity.
2. Encourage or Build Up One Another
Several times in the New Testament, we see this idea that we are there to push each other forward and encourage each other when life gets tough. Romans 14:19 says, “So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.” Our job is to not just wait around for the perfect opportunity to be a good friend, we have to run after or pursue peace and encouragement in our relationships.
How are you encouraging those closest to you? Sometimes the hardest place to live this out is in our homes. We can be the worst critics of our kids, spouses, and even of ourselves. It’s important that we are mindful of the way we use our words in our homes, because bitterness is quick to take root if we don’t choose to nurture those closest to us.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” We should be safe people that build each other up. That doesn’t mean we don’t have bad days, but it does mean when we mess up, we fess up and take time to say sorry. It’s our job to be encouragers!
3. Love and Honor Each Other
John 13:34 commands. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” These words come directly from Jesus and sum up God’s heart for how we are to engage the people around us. Jesus gave up his life for us as the ultimate example of sacrificial love. It’s his example that we aspire to follow.
Romans 12:10 adds, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” The love we have for our brothers and sisters in Christ is one that is devoted. That means it’s not fickle. It’s willing to hang around for the tough talks, the disagreements, and the walks through the valley. We are to honor the image of God that exists in each person.
Philippians 2:3 tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.” How do we live out this command of radical love? With humility that God grants us. We cannot think ourselves too important that serving, forgiving, and kindness are beyond us.
Our relationships are the primary way we live out our faith. How we treat our neighbor directly affects our relationship with God. Thankfully God enables us to live with more grace and love than we could ever be expected to muster up on our own. His Spirit is our helper and renews our strength when the going gets tough.
Let’s take time to ask Jesus to forgive us for the ways we’ve failed to care for each other and remember to take time to look out for each other.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/ChayTee
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. She has most recently published a devotional, Comfort: A 30 Day Devotional Exploring God’s Heart of Love for Mommas. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
Video credit: ©RhondaStoppe/SWN