Under the hat of modern evangelicalism dwell many heads: some gold, some wooden, some stubble. This is evident by the variances in professions and practices of faith. While this post could meander down a passel of trails lined with these variances, it will not. Instead, we will begin a brisk walk along a fence row that separates sheep from … relationally odd sheep.
Shakespeare stated that brevity is the soul of wit. Likewise, it is the soul of sturdy writ. So, let’s take long strides with few words on our walk in order to move us through this meditation which will serve as an introduction to several that will follow.
The topic focuses on relationships among believers. This is not about relationships of the God’s-will-for-finding-your-soulmate-completer-dot-com variety. Rather, we will consider the teaching of the New Testament on how we are to relate to one another within the body of Christ.
The spectrum of relations among Christians in congregations ranges from the priggish parishioner who can only look down his/her spectacles in judgment to the needy hug-o-phile who loves and accepts everyone into her/his affirmation-fest. You know both, and the free-ranging herd in between. A quick pondering of this nutty gamut is puzzling at least, off-putting at best, and repulsive at worst.
If evangelicals are going to promote, or feebly peddle, a “relationship with God” to the lost folks around us, then shouldn’t we place our relationships with other believers under the microscope beforehand? Yes. Yes, we should. Unless, we prefer instead to add a fresh coat of white wash to our already shiny exoskeletons.
The key phrase, and central idea, to this series of posts is “one another.” I will not make this cute by converting those two words into the hyphenated term of “one-anothering.” We’ll be glad later. Also, I will not use the popular term “perspective” in regard to biblical teaching and relationships. “Perspectives” are akin to rabbit holes dotting my favorite woodlands: all too common and often empty. There. Besides, God’s perspective is the only one that matters.
Depending upon how you cut and stack them, the New Testament contains over two dozen “one another” commands. They are not tips or suggestions; they are commands. There is some overlap and cross-pollination among them. So, I will attempt to simplify this by sorting them into one of two boxes: attitudes to build in ourselves and service to offer to others. Clarity will emerge from doing it this way once the light of more posts peeks through the clouds.
Let’s get started with the most common, and foundational, “one another” in the New Testament: Love one another. To “love one another,” is a single command among the King-sized list of the “one another” principles, but it is repeated over a dozen times in different ways, and with different descriptives. The one instance that is familiar to most, and sets the tone for them all, is found in John 13:34-35. There are weighty words and sobering truths compressed into those two short verses.
Pull up to the gate, put on the parking brake, look up the verses, and sit there before we begin our fence row trek.
Roll down the window and take a deep breath. Those verses will cause your brow to moisten.
The hike that we will begin will be uphill, and will bring on a full soul-sweat. You will need to pack some water, and snacks, and extra socks. From where we will start to where we will arrive will result in some calluses, and a better heart.