What the One-Anothers Do

What the One-Anothers Do

Anything we hope to accomplish in our stirring one another up to love and good deeds, our bearing one another’s burdens, our hospitality to one another, our exhortation of one another, or our serving one another—can only flourish by the power of God.

In the life of the believer, there can be tendency to make a spiritual to-do list of the “one-another” commands—the fifty-nine or so phrases sprinkled throughout the New Testament that characterize our Christian responsibility of love toward one another, literally signified by the words “one another.” Given both the sheer number of them and their varying difficulty to apply, remembering all of these responsibilities we have for others in the church—let alone living them out faithfully—seems a task impossible for even the most mature believer. Thus, the one-anothers become a to-do list of recurring responsibilities, with some consistently lived out, some pursued when convenient, and yet others neglected.

The one-anothers form a crucial category of instruction for the life of the church that reflects the Christlike love we are to have for each other, enumerating elements of care for one another in the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:25), bearing the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the church (Gal 5:22–23), and ultimately forming a testimony of the Gospel to the world (John 13:34–35). In and of themselves, the one-anothers are filled with action: we are to love, care for, serve, bear with, bear the burdens of, teach, comfort, encourage, pray for, confess to, be kind to, stir up, and exhort one another—to name a few. That’s a lot to do.

Amidst this plethora of church life to-dos, there are a few underlying actions that are constantly running in the background—simple actions that are integral to the one-anothers as a whole. What goes on in our hearts and minds when the church is living out the one-anothers like it should? How exactly should we embark on this intimidating endeavor of devoting ourselves to the one-anothers? Here are 4 actions that set a foundation for a life committed to the one-anothers:

1. The one-anothers give.

As responsibilities of love that are centered on others in the body of Christ, the one-anothers are inherently a giving endeavor. When you live out the one-anothers, you give of yourself: your time, your attention, your rights, your preferences, or your resources. You make a conscious decision to let go of whatever it might take in order to best love, serve, or care for someone else. The idea that because you are a follower of Jesus, you would divest of yourself to benefit others (and not just as a tax-deductible good deed for the day), is a radical concept in a world that measures in net worth, uplifts self-worth, and revolves around you. But that’s exactly what we are called to in the one-anothers—a lifestyle of giving, that others would be benefitted, encouraged, and helped, and the body of Christ built up.

The basis for this kind of selfless giving is our Savior’s own giving of Himself, even unto death (Phil 2:3–8). In His example, we see a mindset of service toward one another such that you “consider others more significant than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). Beyond being the ultimate example for the kind of humility that is fixed on serving and loving others, the truth is that this redeemed mindset is also “yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5).

Thus, enabled by the Spirit and given the mind of Christ, we can give like He gave and die to ourselves like He died, all for the benefit of others around us.

Whether it’s giving up your rights to hold something over someone when we forgive one another (Eph 4:32), giving up your entitlement to your opinions and preferences as you pursue living in harmony with one another (Rom 15:5), or giving of yourself in terms of emotion, effort, or resources as you seek to love others earnestly from a pure heart (1 Pet 1:22)—the one-anothers give.

2. The one-anothers listen.

How can we most helpfully care for one another, bear one another’s burdens, comfort one another, or pray for one another? We must listen. We must be keenly aware of others’ actual struggles, sorrows, burdens, and needs. We must therefore, with our ears, seek to understand others in order to appropriately and selflessly carry out our responsibility of love for one another. The kind of listening integral to the one-anothers is admittedly different from the kind of listening we first think of in Scripture (that of listening to God and His Word), but all species of listening share the common posture of humble receptiveness.

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