Did you know that in the New Testament alone, the phrase "one another" (alleœloœn) is used almost 100 times? It's the key to unified groups, healthy churches, and fruitful evangelism. You see, the "one anothers" form the foundation of how we are to be the body of Christ. When we apply these commands to our lives and our groups, we have a roadmap for imitating Christ and growing as the body of Christ. And when we behave this way toward one another, the world sees something different in our lives—something countercultural, compelling, and challenging.
In John 17:22-23, Jesus prayed that his disciples "may be one, as we (Jesus and the Father) are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." Unity through loving one another completely is important in itself, but we must never lose sight of its purpose: to show others the love of God. I can't think of a better way to debunk the myths of Christian hypocrisy, back-biting, and feuding than to behave in a way that surprises, appeals to, and attracts the unbelievers in our spheres of influence by living out the one anothers.
In many ways, the one anothers build on each other. Groups can see how they're growing as they identify how well they're living out the one anothers and where they're at in this progression.
Have Concern For One Another
First Corinthians 12:24-25 tells us, "God has blended together the body, giving greater honor to the lesser member, so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another" (NET). One of our first goals as small-group leaders is to see our group members care for one another. But when we come from different walks of life and life experiences, caring for one another isn't always natural.
Paul uses the analogy of a physical body to represent how the body of Christ should work together. We need everyone to work together and see themselves as part of the body in order to function at our highest capacity. Everyone has an important role, and we need each other to complete the task God has given us.
But sometimes we consider some members less important. These judgments can be based on a lot of things, but let's face it: It's easy to categorize and pigeonhole people. I've done it. And I've usually been wrong. The person I thought would contribute the most is flaky. The person I expect to be trouble isn't. As leaders, we need to show equal concern for one another so that the body, our small group, will function well. We need to demonstrate that each member, regardless of worldly status, is equally important in God's economy. Take time to consider your heart toward your group members. How might you unintentionally be valuing some members over others?
Love One Another
As our groups begin to bond and grow in concern for one another, we develop a love for one another, which forms the foundation for the rest of the one anothers. This fulfills Jesus' command in John 13:34-35: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Jesus' disciples were familiar with the commands in the Law to love God and their neighbor (Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18). But here Jesus upped the ante by telling them to love one another as he loved them. They would soon see that this was an agape love, a self-sacrificing love that gives life.