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One another


From creation God intended us to do life with other people. Because it was not good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18), God has placed the human species in groupings with others. The generations of Genesis 1-12 are the genealogical lines of clans, tribes, families, nations, races, creeds, and churches. Bible wisdom reminds us that two are better than one and that two or three of us can experience his presence in a way that one of us cannot. So, it makes strong biblical sense that our ministry to one another is a chief component of fresh faith. That is, when applied in a biblical manner.

The New Testament includes one hundred uses of the term "alelon", translated "one another". A great number of them, somewhere in the neighborhood of 60%, were written by the Apostle Paul to the churches. A majority of them are about maintaining unity in the church. Still others are aimed at defining the loving relationships within the body and a few more of them help us understand the role of humility in interpersonal relationships. Then there are a final grouping with much broader application. This final group is a listing of twelve more difficult "one another" actions that are consequential for instilling freshness in a group of imperfect, born-again people. They demand more than hugs and kisses and the warm fuzzies of human touch. But, they are essential if staleness is to be recognized and dispatched.

This last group is mentioned because the instructions in this final heading are often either over- looked or over-played. This list includes encouragment, instruction, admonishment, speaking truth (in love), stirring each other, stimulating one another toward good deeds, judging others, or putting stumbling blocks in others paths. There are a couple of thoughts about bearing each others burdens, praying for one another, practicing hospitality, being truthful, offering comfort, and building each other up. These twelve actions are often over-looked because they demand a level of trust and partnership that doesn't exist in every human relationship. When they're over-played, it's usually because some legalist has gone to meddling or judging or assuming a supervisory role over other believers. In any case, over-looking and over-playing are dangerous to the body and can contribute to corporate staleness if not checked.

These "one another" passages set the foundation for intensely fresh relationships and mission. On the one hand they enourage and edify the people with whom we are called to serve. Prayer and devotion form a tight supernatural bond between those who otherwise might not even know each other. In the same way, the practices that build unity and love and underscore the mission with humility, and acceptance, also provide a deeper level, one of accoutability, genuine openness, truthfulness about life and faith, and frankness about where we stand in ministry. It is what the reformers called church discipline, levels of relational integrity that require our submission to one another and expectation of the mind of Christ in us. A truly fresh experience of faith requires the positive elements of support and the truthful accountability of gentle, loving correctionand training.

Stale churches often selectively forget the accountabiity elements. It was for this very reason we were led to incorporate submission to the church covenant as required element of church membership in my last pastorate. It was my personal conviction, after months of prayer and study with minds sharper than mine, that one of the aspects of an impotent mission was our current soft requirements for church membership. Because there were no standards, the entire process was often just stale. Of course this action, approved by church leadership and the church body, was opposed by some. A few of them left the church over it. Still, there's no doubting the two sharp edges of the "one another" passages as the central theme of fresh faith. They are linked by the the further expectation of genuine love and humility as the cornerstones of personal relationship within the church.

HIs Word always encourages me to reflect on the people equations of church life and the miracle of his placement. Paul wrote, "But as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose" (1 Corinthians 12:18). In my mind he has strategically placed us together in the body for the purpose of fulfilling his mission. That, of course, includes his placement of our spiritual gifts in such as way that the body functions as he desires. Part of that human function involves the "one another" passages. In this we discover his marvelous place to keep us fresh for the mission.

For the Apostle Paul, this people action wasn't theoretical. He wrote about it often.

"...so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed by your company"

(Romans 15:32).

"I rejoice at the coming of Stehpanas and Fortunatus and Archaicus, becasue they have made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours"

(1 Corinthians 16:17).

"And besides our comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all" (2 Corinthians 7:13).

"May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refrehed me and was not ashamed of my chains..." (2 Timothy 1:16).

"For I have derived much joy amd comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you" (Philemon 1:7).

"Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ"

(Philemon 1:20).

It's an amazing thing, the influence of one fresh, vibrant believer on others. The model he gave us for life is to spend it in the company of like minded people who have been made new by Christ.

Being with other believers is a blessing. The pause that refreshes.


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