What are some effective ways to love our neighbors? Most of us would say things like taking a meal to someone who is ill or helping repair a broken faucet. Thinking further, we might point to less tangible actions like praying for people, apologizing quickly for an offense, or offering a word of encouragement.
In each case, we think of a positive behavior directed toward someone else. These are the “one another” actions, conforming to the many New Testament instructions on how to treat those God places around us.
Each “one another” is an expression of the Great Commandment to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Outdo one another in showing honor, forgive one another as Christ forgave you, bear with one another, submit to one another in love. These expansive expressions of the principles of the Old Testament Law prescribe how we can live in community and offer indispensable instructions for maintaining the common good. Finding meaningful ways to love one another is not simply “a good idea” or “a nice suggestion”; it is the hard work necessary for the well-being of the group.
But to truly love one another, we must direct our efforts at godliness not just toward others, but inward. The call to love our neighbor is given in reference to how we love ourselves. It explicitly links the spiritual health of the individual to the health of community.
Yet we instinctively divide our sins into two categories: those that affect our neighbor and those that affect only us. The ancient god of individualism whispers that some sins are just between God and me. If there are consequences, they will impact only me. And this is simply not true. The consistent message of the Bible is this: Personal ...1
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