So great is God’s love and concern for his church that he commands a high level of mutual love and support within the church.

An analysis of the New Testament commands about ‘one another’ and ‘each other’ in their context reveals that, although we are elsewhere commanded to love all people, these particular commands refer to our actions and attitudes towards other believers, not to our actions and attitudes to all people in general.

As God’s dearly loved children, saved and set apart as his people, we are to treat one another as extremely special:

We are to live at peace with each other [Mark 9:50].

We are to live in harmony with each other - sympathetically, compassionately, humbly [1Peter 3:8].

Living humbly with one another, means honouring the other above ourselves, thinking of the well being of the other before our own [John 13:14; Romans 12:10; Ephesians 5:21; 1Peter 5:5]. This concern for the other is to reflect the concern of Christ for us, as Paul states in Philippians 2:3 - 6:

'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain concert, but in humiity consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing ...'

This humility towards each other is also expressed in the repeated commands to ‘submit’ to one another.

We are to love one another, and specifically we are to love one another as Jesus Christ loved us [John 13:34; 15:12 ,17; 1Thessalonians 4:9; 2Thessalonians 1:4; 1Peter 1:22 ; 4:8; 1John 3:11 ,23; 4:7-12; 2John 5].

In fact loving our fellow-believers is an essential evidence of genuine faith in Christ: 'By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another' [John 13:35].

As John makes clear in his letter, this love for one another reveals the integrity of our claim to know Jesus Christ, and failure to love our fellow Christians strongly suggests that our claim to know Christ is spurious [1John 2:9-11; 3:10,14-17; 4:7-12,20].

We are to be devoted to one another with brotherly love [Romans 12:10].

We are to treat one another as God in Christ has treated us – with compassion, forgiveness and mercy [Romans 14:13 ; 15:7; Ephesians 4:2; 4:32; Colossians 3:13].

This expression of compassion, mercy and forgiveness to each other is a reflection, an imitation, of the love of God the Father and Christ the Son for us:

'Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Chrsit loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God' [Ephesians 5:1,2].

We are to encourage each other  and build each other up with God's truth [1Thessalonians 4:18 ; 5:11]. We are to encourage each other to keep on believing and not be deceived into the sin of unbelief [Hebrews 3:13]. Because we have a secure acceptance with God, we are to encourage each other towards love and good deeds [Hebrews 10:24 ,25].

Each of these commands presents us with a serious challenge that calls us out of the ‘normal’ level of inter-personal relationships and into an amazing level of personal relationships that ceases to reflect the cultural norm. Here we are commanded that our attitudes and our actions towards our fellow-believers are to reflect the attitude and action that God has clearly and powerfully demonstrated towards us in and through Jesus Christ.

Thus the self-denying, self-sacrificing love of Christ for us is both the motivation and the measure of this mutual love and care that God commands and expects within the church.

Such amazing and humanly impossible love among those who identify themselves with Christ demonstrates to the watching the world the reality and integrity of any claims we might make to be his disciples.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009, 2021