It is a small expression, yet its meaning is far reaching. It occurs over 60 times in our New Testament and covers virtually every aspect of assembly and corporate life. The standard it raises and the responsibilities which it imposes are challenging, the task of a lifetime. The little expression is, “one another.”
An Appreciation of Relationship
Think of what is embraced by this expression. Paul tells us in Romans 12 that we are “members one of another.” The N.T. nowhere envisions free-lance Christianity. For many reasons, God intended Christian character to be developed in the setting of a community of believers and in walking in the world while not being “of the world.”
An Awareness of Responsibility
One of the many reasons that God has ordered things in this manner is so that the “members should have the same care, one for another” (1 Cor 12:25). I am my brother’s keeper. I do have a responsibility for your welfare. Every personal encounter, every time a brother rises to minister, each occasion of visitation, every letter or note forwarded to another believer, each should leave that believer spiritually better. It is the carrying out of the great commission of believers to each other: “ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).
An Acceptance of Roles
Inherent in the recognition of our relationship and interdependency within the body, is an acceptance of the fact that you do not have my gift and I do not have yours. My exercise may not be identical to yours. Each of us has an exercise according to the burden the Spirit of God has given us. One believer’s exercise may be for personal work. Another saint, feeling limited in gift or ability may choose to make the burden of his service the upkeep of the assembly meeting hall. Yet another may give herself to hospitality or visitation of the sick. To insist that everyone share my burden, or worse still, to count as minor the other players in the great drama, is both unscriptural and spiritually deadening.
On at least two occasions, the Word of God exhorts us to “submit to one another” (Eph 5:21; 1 Pet 5:5). This certainly implies an acceptance and appreciation for another’s role in the body.
Attitude and Actions Required
The actions issuing from this practical exhortation are legion: forbear, forgive, serve, care, love, admonish, consider, exhort, edify one another. These imperatives become the life-long occupation and goal of believers. This rises far above toleration of one another. It is the seeking of the very best for another saint. It implies thoughtfulness. The expression, “Let us consider one another” (Heb 10:24) carries the thought of studying a situation and understanding what the need is. This is no “off-the-cuff” approach to helping believers in trial. This is not a “one-word-fits-all” style of preaching. It is understanding others and doing what is best for each individual. The supreme example is the Perfect Servant who knew “how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.”