The writers of the New Testament described living our spiritual lives in community, a place where people gather and the Holy Spirit enables them to nourish each other’s faith. There are 94 verses in the New Testament, over half from St Paul, using the word ἀλλήλων. (I found this factoid on the internet; there may be a few more or a few less verses, but you get the point. It is used a lot!) This single word in Greek translates into English as the two-word term “one another”. These 94 verses outline actions each individual can do within the community. Consider John 13:34 where Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Jesus repeats this several times in the gospel of John, and it shows up 13 times in 12 verses in 8 chapters in 6 books. Evidently loving one another “as I have loved you” (with a Christ-like love) is important!
Our love relationships with “one another” may feel like a broad concept. To clarify, the writers of scripture became quite specific about the many “one another” actions. Believers were told to:
- be devoted to and to honor one another (Romans 12:10)
- live in harmony and peace with one another (Romans 12:16, 18)
- look out for one another (1 Corinthians 10:24)
- have equal concern for one another (1 Corinthians12:25)
- carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1)
- speak truthfully about one another (Ephesians 4:25)
- be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
- encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
- build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- spur one another on (Hebrews 10:24)
- pray for one another (James 5:16)
- offer hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
Our faith communities always need a lot of “one another” interactions. But now, as we are in the process of moving toward more in-person worship, we will need this even more. As individuals, we may look ahead with eager anticipation, some trepidation, some disappointment, some relief. Beloved, please remember that we do this TOGETHER, in groups, with crucial roles to be played by each member. Whether you are resuming your long-dormant role as greeter, are becoming an usher for the first time, or are on the planning team trying to figure out how to “do coffee hour” safely, know that being infused with the “one another” mentality is vital!
During the next six weeks, I challenge you to identify one person every day to receive some “one another” love from you. Who will you build up? Look out for? Honor? Encourage? Speak truth to? Be kind to? Who will receive hospitality from you? Who will you pray for? Whose burden will you carry? Who will receive Christ-like love from you?
Lord, to love others as you have loved me – this is an impossible task! But, with your help, nothing is impossible! Grant me the willingness to be a supportive, loving, encouraging presence within my faith community so that by late June, 42 different people will have been blessed by my “one another love”, whether they realize it or not. Amen.
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Thank you, Penelope, for this beautiful reminder of our calling as Christ’s followers. What seems challenging when practiced, becomes 2nd nature, eventually —with God’s help.