“We Are Members of One Another” (Part 1)
The New Testament writers exhorted saints to engage in specific activities that would enable the body of Christ to function effectively and to grow spiritually. Frequently they used a unique phrase to describe this mutual and interacting process—“one another.” Paul said: “Do no lie to one another…” (Colossians 3:9), and in the parallel passage he explains why: “for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25). Paul used the human body to illustrate our special relationship as fellow-saints: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:4-5). Just as there are many parts of our human body, so the body of Christ is made up of many members, and each member is important. “We are members of one another”; no member of Christ’s body can say, “I have no need of you” (and none should say, “I am not needed”)…we all need each other (1 Corinthians 12:21)!
“Greet One Another”
As members of one another, we are to “greet one another” (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14). The custom of greeting with a kiss existed in society in New Testament times. Paul and Peter did not create a new form of greeting for Christians; they simply stated how to use the common greeting of the day. Their greetings with a kiss were to be “holy”; their greetings were to be a kiss “of love.” Greetings among people generally tend to be quite empty. People say, “Hello, how are you?” without any thought of wanting to know how you really are. Some say, “It’s been good to see you,” yet they could care less if they ever see you again. Others say, “I’m glad you came,” while not caring if you ever come again. Our greetings (whether a hand-shake, a gentle embrace, a kiss on the cheek) are to reflect a true expression of concern, care and love for one another.
“Care for One Another”
As members of one another, we are to “care for one another” in the local church (1 Corinthians 12:22-26). Paul mentions a practical way we show our “care for one another”: it is by suffering with those who suffer and rejoicing with those who are being honored. Since we are members of one another, we will take notice of the cares, sufferings and the joys of fellow Christians. We will pray for those with special needs, mentioning them by name in our private prayers.
“Be Kindly Affectionate to One Another”
As members of one another, we are to “be kindly affectionate to one another in brotherly love” (Romans 12:10). The term “brotherly love” refers to the love that should exist between brothers and sisters within family units; applied to the local church, it refers to the love Christians should have for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Christians are to be just as devoted to each other as are individual members of a close-knit family unit. Expressing kind affection in a tangible way could consist of sending notes of encouragement to fellow saints and calls or visits to saints who are sick or in the hospital.
“Giving Preference to One Another”
As members of one another, we are to “in honor” be “giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10). Some teach this means we are to “like Christians better” and thus we are to prefer one another’s company, but the first part of the verse would indicate that. This seems to be another way of saying we are to be humble and when it comes to times of honor, we give preference to others, rather than ourselves. In other words, we are usually thinking of other members, instead of just thinking about ourselves. Jesus set the supreme example of honoring others above Himself when He washed His disciple’s feet (John 13:3-5, 12-15). “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). The principle taught is the need to unselfishly serve others, rather than selfishly thinking only for our own needs and desires. Paul teaches what “giving preference to one another” is all about: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
“Be Like-minded Toward One Another”
As members of one another, we are to “be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6). We learn from church history that Satan’s primary strategy involves destroying unity among Christians. He is the author of confusion, insensitivity, false doctrine and church splits. Saints being like-minded “according to Christ Jesus” is the power that defeats Satan’s attempts to “divide and conquer.” Religious unity acceptable to God is based on our moral and spiritual judgments and attitudes being determined by Christ, i.e. in accord with His will and authority. “Like-mindedness” is only disturbed if someone is not thinking or not speaking “according to Christ Jesus” (according to His Word, the New Testament).
“Receive One Another”
As members of one another, we are to “receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). All whom Christ has accepted, we are to receive and treat them with the love and affection characteristic of Christ. In Romans 14 and 15, Paul was talking about those who considered themselves “strong” and those who were “weak.” The “strong” and the “weak” are to receive one another even though they may differ regarding non-essential matters (in this context, whether or not to eat meat). “Receiving one another, just as Christ also received us” will inhibit strife and division in the church and result in greater glory to God.
“Be Hospitable to One Another”
As members of one another, we are to “be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). We show hospitality to one another by providing meals to those who are sick, by inviting one another to dinner and enjoying one another’s company in our homes. These are some of the benefits and responsibilities we share as members of one another in the local church. We will consider more next week.