Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are to gather together. The New Testament refers to this gathering as ekklesia. When the ekklesia gathers together, the members are to experience the “one anothers.”
The Greek word translated “one another” is allelon, which is a reciprocal pronoun in the plural. This means it involves (1) more than one, and (2) mutuality. It does not merely mean ‘this is what X does for Y’; but, rather ‘this is what X & Y do for each other’.
To provide a visual, allelon is not: X → Y, nor is it: X ← Y; it is: X ↔ Y.
Each “one another” imperative is to be mutually reciprocated by the members present. For example, when the ekklesia gathers together, we are instructed to greet one another:
Greet one another (allelon) with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. (Rom. 16:16)
All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another (allelon) with a holy kiss. (1 Cor. 16:20)
Greet one another (allelon) with a holy kiss. (2 Cor. 13:12)
Greet one another (allelon) with the kiss of love. (1 Peter 5:14a)
Kissing is optional. (More accurately, kissing is cultural.) Fist bumps are also acceptable. The point is to greet one another. And this isn’t simply a friendly greeting of ‘hello’, it is recognition of the mutual union believers have in Christ.
We are instructed to do a lot of things to one another (kind things):
…be mutually encouraged by each other’s (allelon) faith (Rom. 1:12)
Outdo one another (allelon) in showing honor. (Rom. 12:10b)
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual (allelon) upbuilding. (Rom. 14:19)
…instruct one another (allelon). (Rom. 15:14)
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another (allelon) (1 Cor. 11:33)
that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another (allelon). (1 Cor. 12:25)
…through love serve one another (allelon). (Gal. 5:13)
Bear one another’s (allelon) burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)
…bearing with one another (allelon) in love, (Eph. 4:1-2)
Be kind to one another (allelon) (Eph. 4:32)
submitting to one another (allelon) out of reverence for Christ. (Eph. 5:21)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others (allelon) more significant than yourselves. (Phil. 2:3)
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another (allelon) and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Col. 3:12-13)
Therefore encourage one another (allelon) with these words. (1 Thess. 4:18)
Therefore encourage one another (allelon) and build one another up (1 Thess. 5:11)
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another (allelon) and to everyone. (1 Thess. 5:15)
And let us consider how to stir up one another (allelon) to love and good works (Heb. 10:24)
Therefore, confess your sins to one another (allelon) and pray for one another (allelon), (James 5:16a)
Show hospitality to one another (allelon) without grumbling. (1 Pet. 4:9)
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another (allelon) (1 Pet. 5:5b)
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another (allelon) (1 John 1:7)
The Lord’s expectation for his people is community. Community demands interaction, mutual participation, people impacting people. It is God’s recipe for his kingdom to be made manifest on earth.
Why all this? Because we are members of one another:
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (allelon). (Rom. 12:5)
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another (allelon). (Eph. 4:25)
We are members of a corporate body. God purposes for each member to play a role in the good of the whole. The body is built up when the individual members are properly working together for mutual benefit (see Eph. 4:16).
If one member of the human body fails to function, the entire body suffers. Believers are reborn into a spiritual body, with Christ as our head. We are interconnected with one another on a level deeper than we can appreciate.
Because we are members one of another, we are to abide in unity together:
…be at peace with one another (allelon). (Mark 9:50)
Live in harmony with one another (allelon). (Rom. 12:16a)
…live in such harmony with one another (allelon), in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another (allelon) as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Rom. 15:5-7)
We’re even told what not to do to one another:
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another (allelon) any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Rom. 14:13)
But if you bite and devour one another (allelon), watch out that you are not consumed by one another (allelon). (Gal. 5:15)
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another (allelon), envying one another (allelon). (Gal. 5:26)
Do not lie to one another (allelon), seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices (Col. 3:9)
Do not speak evil against one another (allelon), brothers. (James 4:11a)
Do not grumble against one another (allelon), brothers, (James 5:9a)
Just as interacting positively with one another results in mutual upbuilding of the whole; interacting negatively with one another tears down the body. When we mistreat an individual member of the body of Christ, there are implications that are more widespread throughout the body than we realize. That’s what makes love in the body essential and a constant necessity.
By the way, do you think there’s an emphasis on loving one another?
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (allelon). (John 13:35)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another (allelon): just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (allelon). (John 13:34)
This is my commandment, that you love one another (allelon) as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
These things I command you, so that you will love one another (allelon). (John 15:17)
Love one another (allelon) with brotherly affection. (Rom. 12:10a)
Owe no one anything, except to love each other (allelon) (Rom. 13:8)
may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another (allelon) and for all, as we do for you, (1 Thess. 3:12)
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another (allelon), (1 Thess. 4:9)
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another (allelon) is increasing. (2 Thess. 1:3)
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another (allelon) earnestly from a pure heart, (1 Pet. 1:22)
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another (allelon). (1 John 3:11)
And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another (allelon), just as he has commanded us. (1 John 3:23)
Beloved, let us love one another (allelon), for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (allelon). (1 John 4:11)
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another (allelon), God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12)
And now I ask you, dear lady–not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning–that we love one another (allelon). (2 John 5)
Love is the over-arching command for believers. Love is the chief one another; all other one anothers are simply different ways to express love.
Serving one another is one way to love. Encouraging one another is a display of love. Praying for one another is a loving act. Love is the umbrella under which all other one anothers reside.
Love is others focused; love is not self-seeking (1 Cor. 13:5). To love is to benefit others. The one anothers is love in action.
The reality of performing the one anothers in the body of Christ is obvious, essential, and cannot ever be understated. Each imperative pertaining to allelon implies plurality and mutuality. Where the one anothers are in practice, love reigns.
Heautou is a reflexive pronoun, occasionally translated “one another”, perhaps better translated as “each other”:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another (heautou), as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph 4:32)
addressing one another (heautou) in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, (Eph 5:19)
…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other (heautou); as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. … Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another (heautou) in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col 3:13, 16)
Be at peace among yourselves (heautou). (1Th 5:13b)
But exhort one another (heautou) every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb 3:13)
Above all, keep loving one another (heautou) earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another (heautou), as good stewards of God’s varied grace: (1Pe 4:8-10)
Finally, let’s mix in Peter’s use of sympathes as is translated in the New King James translation:
Finally, all [of you be] of one mind, having compassion for one another (sympathes) (1Pe 3:8a NKJV)
Putting into practice the one anothers is the foundation of genuine church body life. It is fundamental to our new spiritual DNA as citizens of the kingdom of God. When members of the body of Christ are implementing the one anothers, love is happening.
Mutuality. Reciprocity. Participation. Interaction. …One anothering.