As if our world isn’t already connected and distracted enough, some cars are enabled with their own wifi hotspot. Between the two cars we have for me and my wife, we have 29 years and about 380k miles. We like our vehicles broken in. If there is a hotspot on my 98 Wrangler, it’s because the thermostat has stuck again, but that’s another post. While the hotspot sounds cool (and has actually been around a little while) I doubt many consider it a necessity. It’s likely a short lived phenomenon as so many have devices which do the same job, time will tell.
What about Christian fellowship? Would you consider it a luxury or a necessity? Is fellowship the wifi hot spot in your new car — a cool feature but optional? Maybe you think it’s a passé feature that isn’t needed any longer. I’m afraid that many view fellowship as a luxury. The prevailing attitude seems to be “If I have some fellowship, great, but if not, no big deal, I have Jesus, my Bible app, and a podcast or two — what’s the problem?”
The problem comes to the tune of 47 verses in the Bible that talk about “one anothering.” Where and how are you one anothering? Are you one anothering well? Does that question strike you as odd? In our increasingly individualized world, it’s hard for us to see that Christianity was designed to operate in the context of a community. Remember, we are called sheep. Not cheetahs. Not bears. Not wolves. You never hear about a lone sheep attack. Sheep are prey species relying on the protection from the flock and the guidance of the shepherd for their survival.
JI Packer is worth hearing on this point:
We should not … think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, an optional addition to the exercises of private devotion. We should recognize rather that such fellowship is a spiritual necessity; for God has made us in such a way that our fellowship with himself is fed by our fellowship with fellow-Christians, and requires to be so fed constantly for its own deepening and enrichment. (God’s Words, 193)
Our fellowship with God is fed by our fellowship with other believers, by God’s design in his wisdom. The one anothers can be broken down into a few different groups. I’ll give a sampling below. Give these verses your attention. There is obvious overlap in these categories but these will at least help give us a starting point for understanding the nature of life as the body of Christ.
I was surprised at how many of the one another verses fit in this category. You may think the word tolerate is a strange choice. I’m using it intentionally in order to note what tolerate once meant as opposed to what it means now. The old usage simply meant to put up with someone who held a different view. As DA Carson has noted, it presupposed disagreement. As we throw a bunch of sinners together, we must learn to tolerate one another. The terminology in the Bible is often “bear with” one another. Some translations use the word tolerate. In a highly mobile society, we need to pump the brakes before we jump to a new place of worship and seriously consider how we can bear with those with whom we disagree.
(Mk 9.5; Rom 12.1,16, 15.7, 16.16; 1 Cor 11.33, 12.25, 16.20; 2 Cor 13.12; Eph 4.2, 4.32, 5.21; Col 3.13; 1 Pet 4.9, 5.5, 5.14)
This is the most often repeated one another. Jesus elevated this one another at the Last Supper (John 13). The unbelieving world will know that the Father has sent the Son by the way that Christians love one another. Love should not be confused with mere sentimentality. Love is not a hole which we fall into. It’s not a tree that we fall out of. Love is a choice. We choose, actively, to love one another. The classic chapter on love is 1 Cor 13. This chapter finds it’s placement in the midst of a prolonged discussion of the church. The body and her various body parts are described in chapter 12. Chapter 14 gives instruction to the corporate assembly. What’s going to keep one part of the body from boasting? What’s going to keep the corporate assembly from turning into a egotistical performance hall? Love will.
(Jn 13.34-35 (3x), 15.12, 17; Rom 13.8; 1 Thess 3.12, 4.9; 1 Jn 3.11,23, 4.7, 4.11,12; 2 Jn 5)
Remember what your mom told you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” There is a negative and a positive element. We rightly focus our thoughts on the prohibitions in a verse like Ephesians 4.29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth…” Yes, we need to not say bad things which corrupt. But here’s the really good news, the verse keeps going, “but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Not only can your words not do harm, they can give grace! Would you commit today to find one person and intentionally encourage them? Seriously, try it. You may just want to do it again.
(Gal 5.15, 6.2; Col 3.9; 1 Thess 5.11; Heb 3.13; Heb 10.24; Jas 4.11; Jas 5.9)
While the role of the teachers in a particular congregation is significant, there is much teaching that can and should happen person to person in a natural way. I love the story of Apollos who comes to Ephesus to preach. He was skilled in the Word but he was missing some information. Aquila and Priscilla pull him aside to explain to him, “the way of God more accurately.” (Acts 18.26) If you have been studying the Bible for years, you need to be helping someone else with the knowledge you have gained.
(Rom 14.13, 15.14; Gal 5.26; Eph 5.19; Col 3.16; Jas 5.16)
Serving one another may or may not have a spot on the flow chart at your local congregation. The important thing is to serve people. If that means volunteering for a ministry team, great, if not, there are always people to serve as long as there are people. Serving isn’t just stacking chairs and making coffee. It’s greeting a new face. It’s writing a note of encouragement. It’s praying with and for someone who’s struggling. It’s asking how someone is, and actually listening to their answer. Show up for work when you go to worship. Not only to worship God but to serve others. Serving others isn’t a one day a week event, but it sure is a great place to start.
(Jn 13.14; Rom 12.10; Gal 5.13; Phil 2.3; 1 Pet 4.10)