During my 43 years of pastoral ministry, my eyes have often been opened to the simple strategies that God has placed within His Word, simple, yet powerful strategies for shaping and molding His church to be all that He desires her to be. One of these awakenings for me was the discovery of 29 One Another admonitions that are found in the New Testament. I had been reading over and around these admonitions for years before the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to their true purpose for Christ’s church. What God began to show me was His unique strategy for conforming the members of His church into the image of His Son (II Corinthians 3:17-18).
I became more aware of the fact that salvation is a sovereign work of God. The Apostle Paul reminds us that each believer was chosen by God in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). He also tells us that we are saved by grace through faith, and that not of our own doing (Ephesians 2:8-9). Upon being saved, God then begins a sanctification process in the life of the believer, a process in which the believer has a part to play.
Upon being saved, it is God’s plan that each believer become an active participant in the Body of Christ, His church. It is here that God begins the sanctification process through the practicing of the 29 One Another commands. You might ask, “How so?” Let me explain.
The church is much like a rock tumbler that is used by a lapidary for shaping and polishing rocks. A rock tumbler is a drum that is filled with various forms of sand into which the lapidary places rocks to be polished. Once the rocks and sand are in the tumbler, it is turned so that the drum begins to rotate, mixing the rocks and the sand together. Now, this process may take days or even weeks, but at the end of the process, the rough rocks that were put into the tumbler come out as shining gemstones. The grit of the sand has worn through the rough exterior of the rocks and exposed the true beauty of the stone that was hidden inside.
We, the individual members of the local church, are like the stones placed in the rock tumbler. As the process begins, we are as different as night and day, we come from different backgrounds, we are of different sexes and races, we are of different ages, different temperaments, possessing differing talents and gifts. How is it that God is going to unify us for one purpose and teach us to love one another as we have been loved by Christ? By our obedience to the One Another admonitions.
When that rock tumbler called, the church, begins to rotate, the individual members within begin to rub up against one another and the only way that that rubbing produces unity and love instead of irritation is when we, filled the Holy Spirit, endeavor to obey the commands, Love One Another, just as Christ has loved you, Forgive One Another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you, Pray for One Another, Confess your sins to One Another, Bear One Another’s Burdens, Regard One Another as more important than yourself, Do not complain against One Another, Show tolerance for One Another, Comfort One Another, Serve One Another, etc.
Over the years I have heard again and again, “I can’t do this!” First of all, let me say that Christ has never called us do anything for which He has not also provided every needed grace to be able to do it.” We must appropriate that grace, through study, prayer, and fellowship with one another. More often than not, the issue is not can’t but won’t.
What is at stake here if we refuse to obey the One Another commands or chose to obey them selectively? What’s at stake here is the salvation of the lost outside of our doors. In John 17 Jesus prayed three time that we would be one as He and the Father are one. What is the result of such unity? That the world would recognize that He is indeed its Messiah. Also, in John 13, during the Last Supper, Jesus gave a new commandment, “Love one another just as I have loved you.” Why? So that the world will know that we are His disciples.
Unity and love among the children of God is powerful and undeniable evidence to a watching world that Jesus is who He claims to be and that we truly are His disciples. That’s what’s at stake! And that we may be conformed to the image and likeness of Christ, He has placed us in One Body, His Church, and given us 29 One Another commands to obey, which have the power to change us to place where the world outside of our doors be see the reflection of Jesus in us and are drawn to that light so that they may be introduced to Jesus.
This is why I wrote the book The One Another Project. It was my intention to give the local church a tool for their small group studies or their Sunday School classes that would assist us in God’s ongoing sanctifying process so that we might be the church that He has designed us to be.