One Anothering, Part 2 (Fellowship Among Christ’s People)

Bob RoaneCounseling, Service, Wise living

Used at Belhaven University, River Pointe Church, prison ministry, and pastoral counseling. Various Bible translations are used.

Jesus said—“A new command I give you: Love one another. 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.” (John 13:34-35)

This posting is Part 2. Here you can read One Anothering, Part 1.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is the byproduct of sustained interaction with God and His people. Just as a child picks up traits by dwelling with their parents, so Christians develop love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control through fellowship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and living in a community of loving, serious Christ-followers. This is the family resemblance we want and need.1

Here are some (not all) of the New Testament’s one another passages numbered for ease of discussion. I continue the sequencing begun in Part 1 and punctuate my notes with some hymn stanzas:

5. “Let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” (Rom 14:13) Jesus condemns being judgmental or hasty to form harsh or unfavorable opinions of others without reason. He especially condemns hypocritical judgment, ignoring our own sin.2 Paul teaches that Jesus’ followers are freed from sin by God’s grace, freed from legalistic bondage, and freed to reflect Christ’s pattern of living, never free to do what we please. That’s dangerous. Paul also teaches that sometimes we must voluntarily restrict our freedom out of love for other true believers who are weaker in the faith.3 Living in love means avoiding behavior that might unnecessarily distress other Christians or lead them astray. Our freedom in Christ is the freedom to consider others’ welfare above our own. Jesus calls us to self-denial.4

6. “God has put the body [the Church] together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor 12:24-27) Every part of our human body is important and if one part hurts, our whole body pays attention and comes to the rescue. Everyone is important in Jesus’ church and each person has a role to play. None are to be valued over others. This is why Christ commands us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”5 Since Jesus’ believers all belong to each other, we should desire the each other’s well-being. Christian love does not insist on its own way; it is not self-seeking. When we focus on helping others, our problems shrink in our mind and hinder us less.  

Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love: The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. (John Fawcett)

7. “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh (sinful nature); rather, serve one another in love. (Gal 5:13) Christian liberty is freedom from sin, not liberty to sin.6 See: The True Bounds of Christian Freedom by Samuel Bolton (1606-1654). This book shows the place of God’s law in the Christian life and the danger of Antinomianism, while avoiding legalism. God’s grace gives us freedom to find creative and helpful ways to encourage and build up one another, not to disgrace Jesus’ name or grieve the Spirit by mistreating others. And when we refresh others, we are refreshed ourselves.

8. “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Gal 5:26) C. S. Lewis says: Repentance means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into….It means killing part of yourself, under-going a kind of death….The stamp of the Holy Spirit on us makes us waive our own rights and obey the Lord Jesus….7 We are to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not to distress, trouble, or hurt our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Before our Father’s throne we pour our ardent prayers; Our fears, our hopes, our aims, are one, our comforts and our cares. (John Fawcett)

9 “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” (Gal 6:1-5)

This important passage teaches that in Christ’s family we all have a responsibility to help, to encourage, and to restore one another. None of us are able to take away all of anybody’s or everybody’s problems, only the Lord can do that. But we can come alongside and humbly assist them in times of crisis. The last phrase “each one should carry their own load,” reminds us that we are not to cripple people or enable them by taking away the everyday things God assigns them to do for themselves. “We must deal with our own feelings, attitudes, and behaviors, as well as the responsibilities God has given to each one of us, even though it takes effort.” (Cloud and Townsend,  Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life.) The good kind of enabling helps people trust and obey Jesus; the bad kind encourages their dysfunctional behavior.

We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear, And often for each other flows the sympathizing tear. (John Fawcett)

To be continued. You can read One Anothering, Part 3 (Fellowship Among Christ’s People)

Go in peace, beloved. Walk with King Jesus today and be a blessing to others!

NOTES: 1 Adapted from Robert C. Roberts, Reformed Journal (Feb. 1987).   2 Matt 7:1-6; Rom 2:1-5.     3 1 Cor 8-10; Rom 14 (esp. 8:11 and 14:15).     4 Matt 16:24-28;18:1-9.     5 Rom. 12:15     6 Rom 6:1–7:6.     7 Mere Christianity, adapted.