Summary: The Word is full of "one anotherisms" leading to a spirit of unity and a bond of peace, but these must be rooted and grounded in the gospel lest they become mere moralism
June 24, 2012
You occasionally read about churches or church members in various places who have battles over various things, some of which are important and worth debating, others clearly not.
Unfortunately, Church feuds are not uncommon. They are bad enough when a few individuals fuss about something, but when factions develop and people start taking sides, it’s worse. Worse still is when the pastor and choir director or worship leader get into a disagreement. When that happens - stand aside, there’s going to be trouble.
Here’s a fictional example:
One week, a pastor preached on commitment, and how we should dedicate ourselves to service. The director then led the choir in singing the hymn, I Shall Not Be Moved.
The next Sunday, the preacher preached on giving and how we should gladly give to the work of the Lord. The choir director then led the song, Jesus Paid It All.
The next Sunday, the preacher preached on gossiping and how we should watch our tongues. The hymn was I Love To Tell The Story.
The preacher became disgusted over the situation and, the next Sunday, he told the congregation he was considering resigning. The choir then sang Oh, Why Not Tonight.
When the preacher resigned the next week, he told the church that Jesus had led him there and Jesus was leading him away. The choir then sang, What A Friend We Have in Jesus.
Fictional story, and somewhat humorous, but relationships in the body of Christ are no laughing matter. We could make a case that the quality and character of our relationships with each other are a sign to the outside world, an example of the gospel at work in our daily lives. The apostle Paul certainly thought so. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Ephesians 4:1-3.
Ephesians 4:1-3 (ESV) 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. What a great admonition from Scripture. And Paul doesn’t just ask us to do this without any additional application – he gives a couple of practical examples here, and in many other places in scripture provides clear application of this principle, often using two key words – one another.
Our life together is to be focused first on Christ, but in Christ, we maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace by paying attention to, seeking to grow in, what, for the sake of this morning’s message, I’m going to call “one anotherisms.”
We actually see it stated as such once in this passage in Ephesians when Paul tells us to bear with one another. But he implies three additional one anotherisms in the verse, too. Though he doesn’t use the words one another related to these three, it’s clear that our humility is to be toward one another, our gentleness is to be with one another, and our patience is toward one another.
In pondering this passage, I began to think about the many times we see this two word combination in the New Testament, and how the frequency of this indicates the importance that God must place on how we relate to one another. It’s so important, that God inspired the writers of scripture to be specific, and provide for us many specific examples of how we are to relate to one another, our fellow believers, and in many cases, to the rest of the world.
I did a search of scripture and came up with 38 different one-anotherisms, and I don’t believe that my search reveals the entirety of what God’s Word has to say on this theme. That’s because, again, I found many verses where, depending on the translation, the “one another” was assumed rather than stated as such.
For example, one of the verses I looked at (2 Cor 13:11), which included an additional one anotherism, also stated “live in peace.” It’s assumed by the context that this means live in peace with one another. There are other verses where this same idea is stated more explicitly with the actual words “one another.”
For example, Mark 9:50 says “be at peace with one another.” In a few cases, my search included the words “each other” – but I didn’t do a thorough search with those two words, which can mean virtually the same thing as “one another.” I’m convinced that if I had done so, I’d find even more “one-anotherisms.”
So the study I did included only those verses that actually use these words: one another.