The “one another” passages in the New Testament have long been among our favorites. These commands underscore our mutual responsibilities toward one another in the body of Christ. A congregation thoroughly engaged in fellowshipping one another in these ways will be a beautiful light in the community. Who would not praise the existence of such virtues as mutual love, encouragement, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion in the body of Christ? These are but a few of the statements tied together by “one another”—a reciprocal pronoun emphasizing commonality. Because we are brothers and sisters in Christ, we have mutual responsibilities toward one another.
While the greater portion of our “one another” responsibilities are positive in nature, some take on a negative tone. Although the practice of the positive often eliminates the negative; it is also the case that the practice of the negative eats away at the positive. These negative “one another” passages include the following: (1) “Do not lie to one another…” (Col. 3:9); (2) Do not “judge one another…” (Rm. 14:13); (3) Do not provoke or envy one another (Gal. 5:26); (4) “Do not complain…against one another…” (Jas. 5:9); and, (5) “Do not speak against one another…”
We must take these prohibitions seriously or run the risk of discrediting our claim to be followers of Christ. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:34). But we cannot expect others to listen to us as we talk about the importance of loving one another if we are engaged in speaking against one another. Remaining silent when we have a legitimate complaint is difficult and often goes against our fleshly nature. In the words of Solomon, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Eccl. 3:7). Life is marked by our struggle to get this right—to speak the truth in love and avoid sinning against the body of Christ in the ways mentioned in the other “one another” passages.