Welcome to this edition of Ezer Equipped!
When I was growing up, the adults in my life often corrected my attitude or behavior with “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” They called it the “Golden Rule.” That one little phrase, uttered in a moment, carried countless meanings: Be kind. Treat people with respect. Share. Be generous. Think about how you would feel if someone said or did that to you. This past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about our social climate and how we engage one another. Cancel, call-out, and outrage culture. Tribalism, characterized by relentless loyalty to those who think most like you and contempt of those who disagree with you. Caring more about being right than being righteous. And “othering” people—categorizing them and dismissing them based on assumptions, perceptions, or even isolated experiences.
On my more “spiritual” days, I find myself begging for Jesus to return and stop all the madness. Other days—my “stop the world, I want to get off”days—I am exasperated and ready to throw in the towel and live out the rest of my days on some isolated island in the Caribbean. But what has been most disheartening for me is not what’s going on in the world, but what’s going on in the church—in, through, and among the bride of Christ—both locally and globally. From the very beginning, Scripture tells the story of how God has been establishing a people for himself—the first man and woman, the nation of Israel, and now the church. And as God’s people, we are supposed to look different than the surrounding culture. But have we, like the Israelites in the Old Testament, lived so long in the culture, that we have begun to adopt its attitudes, worldviews, and behaviors?
Early in Jesus’ ministry he taught the Sermon on the Mount—his longest recorded sermon in the Bible (Matthew 5-7). Six times in chapter 5, he begins with the phrase, “You have heard it said,” and each time he methodically deconstructs the popular thinking of their day and reconstructs it based on the upside-down, inside-out way kingdom citizens are to live. Toward the end of his sermon, Jesus says, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12a). Right there in the middle of one of Jesus’ most famous sermons is the “Golden Rule.” But what stands out to me, as I read it again, is the second part of the verse: “This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12b). According to Jesus, how we treat others and how we love our neighbor is the essence of everything God spoke in the entire Old Testament. In fact, our love for our neighbor reveals our love for the Lord (Matthew 22:36-40).
The New Testament writers reiterate this truth with around one hundred verses being dedicated to how we should treat one another. It is clear that God cares how we engage those around us—whether inside the church or outside the church. How we love, serve, forgive, and bear with others is meant to reflect who God is—a gracious, patient, merciful, and benevolent king, who, though we were his enemies, loved us enough to die for us so that we could be restored into a relationship with him. And if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11).
This month, we want to take a look at the “one anothers” of Scripture—to be reminded how kingdom citizens live. We want to spend this month being transformed by the renewing of our minds rather than conformed to the culture around us and the sin within us. Let’s soak in the truths of who God is for us in Christ so that his lavish love can flow through us onto the world around us and hopefully draw them to our gracious King.
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
Take some time this month to study these four passages. Read each passage twice. The first time you read them, look for the commands related to how we are to treat one another. This is normally what we focus on. The second time you read them, look for why we are to live this way (Hint: you are looking for words and phrases that describe who we are in Christ and what he has done for us).
These three chapters comprise Jesus’ longest sermon in the whole New Testament, and they are full of how we, as citizens of his kingdom, should engage with others.
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
John’s letter is full of the truth of God’s love for us in Christ. But he is equally clear about how that love should be reflected through us.
“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”
While salvation is by faith in Christ alone, the fruits of our faith are to be reflected in our engagement with others.
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
Paul echoes Jesus, closing out this passage by reminding us that love fulfills all the requirements of God’s law. These two passages are full of practical ways God’s love can be exhibited through us.
“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’ These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”
Bible Project Video
Ahavah is the word the Bible uses to describe an affectionate and loyal love. God’s love for us is an expression of his affection for us. His love for us is more than just sentimentality; it is backed by action. This short video explains the meaning of the word love in the Shema (Deut. 6:4-7) and shows us how our love for others is fueled by God’s love for us.
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
Here are two resources that compile and categorize the “one anothers” found in the New Testament: The “One Another” Passages and a One Another Infographic. It might be helpful to take a look at each of these before moving onto the Connect Questions.
- Ten of the “one another” passages address humbling ourselves and serving others. These Scriptures take aim at our pride. Can you identify some ways that your pride may be keeping other people at a distance?
- Twenty-one of the “one another” passages relate to unity in the church. Think about your posture and tone this past year as we have navigated things like a global pandemic, heated political season, upheaval of social interaction, and racial tension. Have your attitudes, words, and actions in your personal and online relationships promoted unity or stirred division in the body of Christ? Are there steps of repentance and reconciliation you need to take toward another?
- Ten of the “one another” passages remind us to encourage others! This has not been an easy year. Is there a pastor, leader, co-worker, or friend who could use some encouragement? Who needs to hear from you personally?
- The rest of the “one another” passages guide us in how we are to love others outside of the church. These passages invite us to examine how we are conducting ourselves in relationships with others. Our willingness or unwillingness to take these commands seriously impacts the type of witness we have in the world (John 13:5). What adjectives would people use to describe how they have experienced you this year—online, at home, at work, or with your closest friends?
Scripture warns us to not just be hearers of the Word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned? Pick one or two of the below steps to take.
- What relationships have been neglected this past year? Or do you know anyone who is new to the area who is feeling the sting of being the outsider? Whom can you move toward?
- What relationship needs repair? Have the tensions from this past year created an unnecessary divide? What do you need to own, confess, and repent of? Make a plan and initiate the conversation.
- Whom can you invest in? Is there a person God has placed in your life who stretches you or makes you uncomfortable? How can you intentionally engage and invest in them in such a way that you are depleting your time, energy, or resources in order to enrich their lives?
- Are there relationships with other believers that you enjoy but where you are not fully living out the “one anothers” of the New Testament? How could you use these passages as a grid to deepen your friendship so that it is characterized by both truth and grace? How could these relationships be leveraged to spur one another on to love and good deeds? Are there ways in which you are resisting connecting with others and hesitant to go deeper?
Gospel Coalition Article by Ray Ortlund
Book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Bible Study by Jen Wilkin