Discipleship: Responsibilities to "One Another"

The Greek word allelon gives us a helpful introduction to the ways in which Christians should serve each other, because this Greek word means “one another” or “each other.” It is often used to describe our mutual obligations — the responsibility that all members have toward one another.

Perhaps the most comprehensive command Jesus gave was the well-known “Love one another” (John 13:34). “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (verses 34-35). This command is such a fundamental statement of our Christian duty that it is given again in John 15:12, 17; Romans 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; and 2 John 5. This is the attitude in which we should always interact with one another.

Paul developed the command a little further: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10). “Serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). He prayed that the Lord would help the Thessalonians’ love to increase not only for each other, but that their love would also increase for everyone else (1 Thessalonians 3:12). “Always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else” (1 Thessalonians 5:15). In his second letter to the Thessalonians, he thanked God that their mutual love was indeed increasing (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

In Christ, we belong to each other and form one body (Romans 12:5). We are members of one another (Ephesians 4:25). “We have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7). Paul prayed that the Roman Christians would have “a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5). To avoid division in the body, Paul wanted members to “have equal concern for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:25). “Offer hospitality to one another” (1 Peter 4:9).

We see further development of the command in the words of Jesus: “Be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50). Paul put it this way: “Live in peace with each other” (1 Thessalonians 5:13*). [An asterisk indicates that the pronoun is heautou instead of allelon; the meaning is often the same.] “Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16). Paul shows how this is done: “Do not be conceited” (same verse). “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider [each other] better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5.)

“Stop passing judgment on one another,” Paul writes (Romans 14:13). “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you” (Romans 15:7). “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other” (James 5:16).

“Serve one another,” Paul wrote (Galatians 5:13). Peter gives the same point: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10*). Jesus had given the same lesson when he told his disciples to “wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Paul wanted the Roman Christians and himself to be “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12). One purpose of our weekly meetings is to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds…encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25). “Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13*). “Encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11). “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith” (Jude 20*).

Paul wanted “mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). “Teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16*; Ephesians 5:19*). Paul was confident that the Romans could “instruct one another” (Romans 15:14).

These are some of the ways in which Christians, as servants of Jesus Christ, minister to one another. None of these types of service or ministry is restricted to ordained elders or pastors.

Author: Michael Morrison


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