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Romans 12:9-21: One Another!

In Romans 12:9-21, one small phrase is repeated three times. That phrase is “one another.” That phrase is significant because it is used about 100 times in the New Testament, many of those in Paul’s writings. Interestingly, the “one another” statements almost always fall into three categories.

Let’s look at these three commands in Romans 12.

paper people holding hands representing caring for one another
  1. Be devoted to one another in love.
  2. Honor one another above yourselves.
  3. Live in harmony with one another.

Be devoted in love.

We are called to love our brothers and sisters in the church deeply – they are family. The key Greek word is “Philadelphia,” where we get our “city of brotherly love!” What does scripture say about brotherly love?

  • But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. 1 Thessalonians 4:9 NLT
  • Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Hebrews 13:1 NLT
  • Now that you have taken care to purify your souls through your submission to the truth, you can experience real love for each other. So love each other deeply from a [pure] heart. 1 Peter 1:22 VOICE

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

2 Peter 1:5-7 NLT

Honor one another above yourselves.

Honoring a person means giving them preference, first choice. It is one small act of denying oneself for the benefit of another. It is evidence of our humility. It’s an opportunity for competition – the ESV translates this bit as, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” When we honor others above ourselves, we care for them without counting the cost.

  • Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3 ESV
  • Let no man, then, set his own advantage as his objective, but rather the good of his neighbor. 1 Corinthians 10:24 Phillips
  • For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. 

Philippians 2:5 – 7 MSG

Live in harmony.

Living in harmony with one another requires a certain meekness, seeking common ground. Like the point above, we let go of feelings of superiority and aim to live peaceably with all people.

  • Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! Psalm 133:1 ESV
  • I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose. 1 Corinthians 1:10 NET
  •  Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. Ephesians 4:2-4 NLT

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Colossians 3:12 – 14 MSG

How we treat one another makes a difference! Jesus said by our love for one another everyone will know that we are His disciples. And then He said that our unity, our otherness demonstrates who Jesus is, that God, in His great love for us all, sent Jesus into the world. “One another-ing” is not optional but necessary!

Hymn of Praise

In Christ there is no east or west,
in him no south or north,
but one great fellowship of love
throughout the whole wide earth.

In Christ shall true hearts ev’rywhere
their high communion find.
His service is the golden cord
close binding humankind.

Join hands, then, people of the faith,
whate’er your race may be.
All children of the living God
are surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both east and west,
in him meet south and north.
All Christly souls are joined as one
throughout the whole wide earth.

John Oxenham 1908
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