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The One Anothers - Love, Unity and Humility


[This is the second of several articles in the one another series]

We have been looking at the thirty-five one anothers found in the New Testament. Last time we surveyed the landscape, and tried to put them in context. And in some ways we just took them all like a giant wave washing over us. But it can be hard to hold all thirty-five of these in our heads at one time. So I think it would be helpful to put them into three categories, at least. And those are, love, unity, and humility. While most of the one anothers we can take from the letters of Paul, Peter, James and John, these one anothers find their origin in the Lord Jesus himself. So let us anchor these three main categories each with a verse from the gospel of John, recording the very words of Christ.

The first and the greatest of these is love. Let us first hear this command from the Lord Jesus himself: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12). And if we were tempted to define love on our own terms, Jesus corrects us and goes on to say, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you" (15:13-14). This command to love one another is the most repeated of all the one anothers. (John 13:34, 15:12, 17; Romans 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 4:7; 2 John 5).

And under this banner of love go many of the one another commands. "We are called to "serve one another" but to do this "through love" (Galatians 5:13). We are called to "bear with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2). We are called to warmly greet one another, even with a holy kiss, or as Peter says, "with a kiss of love" (1 Peter 5:14). And yes we can contextualize that one for our culture a little bit. But don't fail to obey it! We are called to greet each other with love and warmth – that is God's will for us.

Paul tells the Romans to "love one another with brotherly affection." (Romans 12:10). And on its heals he tells us to "outdo one another in showing honour". This is what love for one another looks like. We will revisit this category another time.

The second grouping is that of unity. Jesus prayed, "that they may be one even as we are one" (John 17:21). It is easy to lean into our differences and constantly contrast our own views and ideas with those of others. And yet we are told in the Scriptures to pursue unity of mind. We are told "to live in harmony with one another" (Romans 12:16, cf. Romans 15:5). Paul tells the Philippians to complete his joy "by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind" (Philippians 2:2). And to hear this idea in its most direct form, listen to Peter: "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind (1 Peter 3:8). Are you prone to playing devil's advocate? Are you argumentative? Always contrasting and balancing what everyone else is saying? Perhaps if that is you, you need a healthy dose of these one anothers, the unity ones. We are called to unity in Christ. Again, more on this in the future.

The last grouping is that of humility. Jesus tells his disciples, "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14). Now we, unlike the Jews of Jesus' day, don't find footwashing to be an all that relevant issue. We wear socks and shoes, we shower and bathe often – usually all is well on the podiatry front. But in Jesus' day this was a major and regular issue. Feet were often dirty from walking in open sandals. And these dirty ancient Judean sandals needed to come off in the house. If you were well off you would have a slave take them off for you. This was not a job for your friend or even for your disciple. Disciples would do many jobs for their masters, but not this. Taking off sandals and washing feet, that was the slave department. I recently preached on John the Baptist, who said of Jesus: "The strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie" (John 1:27). John's statement is stunning. He essentially says, that Christ is so high above me, that I am not even worthy to be his slave. The lowest job in service of this one would be much too high for me. And yet, here we have Jesus, this one of infinite worth, taking the towel, and washing his disciples' feet. He has reversed everything and then some. You can see why Peter felt the need to cry out, "Lord, do you wash my feet?...You shall never wash my feet" (John 13:6-8). 

And yet this is the issue, that of service and humility. Jesus calls us to imitate him in not being haughty or aloof, not being proud and selfish – but in humility to serve one another. Wash one another's feet. Or more generally as Peter puts it, "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5). Through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13). Count your brothers and sisters as more important than you count yourself (Philippians 2:3).

This is a tall order for sinners like us. Indeed it would be impossible for us to love one another, to have unity with one another, and to be humble toward each other, unless the Lord would change our hearts. And yet, if you are in Christ, this is your calling now. These are your marching orders. Love, unity, humility – pursue these things in the strength that God supplies. And may the God who justified us by his grace, grow us in that grace to be more like our Saviour, Jesus Christ. 
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Tuesday, 16 July 2024