23 Ways to Behave Like A Believer

Challies’ Visual Theology

Twenty years ago as I preached on a Sunday evening, I began a journey of biblical discovery that would profoundly impact my relationships with other believers.

I came to Christ at the age of fifteen and I was deeply influenced by church folks. It puzzled me that the Bible had very specific directives regarding our behavior towards each other as members of the “body of Christ.” The way I read the Bible, everything was done within community and because of community.

The Gospels were written to the Church (the community of God’s people), the Epistles were written to the Church. And both were written to provide instruction of how to do things together. No solos, no rugged individualism – together.

As a new believer, I was shocked when I discovered that church folks struggled to act out these Biblical behaviors.

First of all, one weekly morning together is not nearly enough time for believers to work out these behaviors – even with the second hour of Sunday School.

Second, I do not ever remember being taught how to treat each other. I thought we were just supposed to love and try not to gossip. Most of the teaching I heard was geared toward personal growth, holiness and finding your place to serve.

However, if the Biblical instructions were given in community and expected to be practiced in community then why weren’t we seeing more evidence or hearing more stories of these behaviors being successful in community?

So that Sunday night, twenty years ago, I spoke on the New Testament “One Another’s.” Originally I found twenty-one of them, but since then I found a couple more. My opening line that night was, “Tonight my message only has twenty-one points!” Though we flew through each point, I never forgot the impact of those words.

The apostle John mentions LOVE ONE ANOTHER more than any other author. Three times in two verses in the book of John and six times in six verses in his epistles.

Eight times he says “LOVE ONE ANOTHER.” You would think that John was trying to get a message across. Jesus said in John 13:35, people will be able to tell you are His disciples just because of your love for each another.

Of course, people never watch how you act. You live in a totally isolated world where no own notices you.

For sure they don’t watch how you treat your kids, your wife, your husband, your friends, your boss.

And people NEVER notice how you speak of other Christians.

[cough, cough]

I believe we all know better than that.

So, I have brought the “one another’s” back and written a little thought and a prayer with each one.

Now it’s a twenty-three week devotional. I would have made it twenty-three days, but a day is just not long enough to grasp the depth of each word and apply it in our lives.

So for the next twenty-three weeks, be open to hearing what God’s word has for you and for others around you! Even if the word of the week seems difficult, I encourage you to try it. God will give opportunities to practice. All you have to do is act on the opportunity and watch what happens.

1. Love – one another

(agapao – love)

(Jn 13:34,35;Rom 13:8;I Pet 1:22; ​I Jn 3:11;I Jn 3:23;I Jn 4:7;I Jn 4:11,12;2 Jn 1:5)

Love – the foundational word to the New Testament. The word is so simple, yet so profound.

Ask someone to define it and you’ll get a lot of different responses. Some say, “God is love …” That makes it more difficult to practice because only God can be God and love us perfectly. Some may say, “Love is a feeling”, or “Love is giving.”

The word, “love” is used often in the Bible as a noun. In my study I could locate only 9 instances (see verse references at top of page) where the word love is used as an action or verb directing us in how to behave toward one another.

You can see the dictionary meaning here: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/love. However, this sterile definition cannot capture the depth and texture of such a word. Jesus brought it down to simple acts and metaphors like spitting and touching. Then He lifted it (almost beyond our comprehension) with imagery like the cross and grave.

Over these next several weeks perhaps you will find new expression in the combination of these words “one another”. You may discover that there are innumerable ways to be practical and intentional about loving. I just wanted you to know as a follower of Jesus that these 23 commands reveal what it looks like to love one another.

Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love.
Mother Teresa

Prayer:
Lord help me see the simple needs and give me courage for the more sacrificial opportunities. Bring people across my path so that I can practice loving them.

If you have a story of extraordinary love from or towards someone, share it in the comments area and let others be inspired.

 

2. Devoted – to one another

(philostorgos – affectioned, tenderly loving)

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

This verse describes a kindred love or a cherishing of one’s kindred such as parents for children. Think of family as in a husband’s devotion to his wife or parents devotion totheir children.

“Devoted” is such an old word. Webster’s dictionary says that it showed up in 1586. You may have heard the word used in phrases like, “he is a devoted husband” or “she is a devoted wife.” It may be that someone is devoted to their work, job or cause. But none of those phrases helps or hints at how Paul was instructing the church to treat one another. Be devoted to one another. It can better be explained by two Greek words slammed together. Phileo (a friendly love) and Storgos (family or deep love for our children). Put them together and you have a word that describes a deep family love towards each other.

A few months back we had a horrible plumbing back up. I called a plumber to come out and clear the clog which I thought may be a “mainline” clog.  Those are the worst. When the plumber arrived he proceeded to give me the bad news. Since we didn’t have a “cleanout,” they would have to remove a toilet ($$), run a mainline snake ($$$) and because it was a Sunday, charge extra $$. I was so frustrated. I wanted to just send him away, but he was going to charge a service fee just for coming out. I didn’t want to lose money for doing nothing so I agreed to most of the suggested charges.

Once he and his assistant got started we began to chat and I discovered that he was a believer and went to church a few miles from my house. My first thought was, “I better be careful how I treat this guy… he’s a brother.” My second thought was, “Hey! He better be careful how he treats ME — I’m his brother as well!” We ended up talking about our walk with God and actually knew a few friends we had in common. He knocked off some money from the bill and I was happy how it all turned out.

The point isn’t, “Hey, Christians better give me a discount!” The point is this; we need to treat our brother or our sister in Christ like we would our own flesh and blood family members. Because, the truth is, we have Christ’s blood in common and we ARE family.

Regardless of what church they go to, are you treating other believers like family?

“I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three …”
Martin Luther King Jr.

Prayer:
Lord, help filter my thoughts to allow tender, family type love to reach out to my brothers and sisters in Christ. May I treat them as I would my own flesh and blood.

If you have a story of delightful devotion from or towards someone, share it in the comments area and let others be inspired.

3. Honor – one another

(tee-may – time highly,to lead in preferring, worth, assessment, appraisal/outdo, esteem more)

Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Paul has a certain rhythm in the words he uses to instruct us to focus our behavior. Honor. We expect to hear this word in a wedding ceremony, in a life lesson to a child about respecting parents or to convince us to respect our elders. But this regal and top-shelf word should be used more often. And we should use it liberally on each other. Why save the china only for special occasions? Let’s figure out how to honor one another.

Would it hurt you to take the lead in preferring your brother or sister over yourself? Could you give them your cherished parking place, or relinquish your favorite pew from time to time? Could you clap a little louder for them, or truly celebrate when they have accomplished something? What about going all out and giving them credit for what they did? Remember the time you were in charge of the event, but they did all the work?

It is interesting that the Greek word for honor means “time” in English. Time is so valuable to us. For some, time may even be more valuable than money. It takes time to honor and time given to each other is truly a gift.

Let’s get to practicing this word more often by outdoing, esteeming more highly or taking the lead in honoring one another. You never know, it might just catch on!

Prayer: Lord, help me find time to give time. Show me ways to honor my brother. I will be willing and ready to act on opportunities you send my way.

If you have a story of honor about someone, share it in the comments area and help others be creative.

4. Instruct – one another

(noutheteo – caution, to impart understanding,to set right,lay on the heart of will and disposition, direct one’s mind)

(Rom 15:14;Col 3:16)

Rom 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

 

I love the thought here… “to put in mind.”

I have some basic principles I live by. One of them is this: If I know you well enough and really care about you; I will tell you about something I see in your life that may be a blind spot to you.

FACT: WE ALL HAVE BLIND SPOTS

It’s the true friend that risks telling you that you’ve got a booger hanging out of your nose or that your fly is down.

That may be a silly example, but it also applies to much more serious areas in our life.

I love it when someone cares enough about me to take the risk of warning me when I’m about to go off the boundary rails! I don’t think we do this enough for each other.  Or when we do, it is done in a hurtful way and not in a spirit of love.

Here’s a free tip: if you are going to instruct – GO THE DISTANCE. Commit to the long-haul process of helping. Pointing out a problem is simple compared to sticking around to solve one.

This word is NOT about judging, it’s about loving!

And this is not a hierarchical word used or abused by church authorities to keep the sheep in line. This is a ONE ANOTHER principle. Are Pastors and Elders the only one to speak words of instruction?

If you may be thinking, “It’s not my place to say something,” or “It’s none of my business.” Let me just correct you right now. It IS your place and this IS our business!

What are you afraid of? Rejection? Being labeled? When we instruct in love, it is a risk – it does take guts. I think the body of Christ needs to move beyond middle-school mentality and maturely act like followers of Christ.

To the church in Colossae Paul goes on to write about songs and hymns to God. Could we sing our gentle warning to our friends as we try to enlighten them about their blind spots?   Now that’s not something you hear every day at church! “Brother, I’m going to sing you a song about your temper and it goes like this… “

Prayer: Father help me to care enough to correct with love and be willing to receive that same kind of correction from those who care about me.

If you have a story of instructing someone and it was a great experience for both parties, share it in the comments area and help others be bold.

5. Harmonize – with one another

(phroneo – same opinion/mind)

(Rom 12:16;I Pet 3:8)

Rom 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

1 Pet 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

Oh, you’re going to love this one!  Listening to music we don’t like can bring out the worst in us. We all have our personal preferences. Not everyone likes rock, classical, jazz or even county music. However, when harmony is added to a sound, no matter what genre it is, most of us will be able to tolerate it, and maybe even enjoy listening to it. Harmony adds depth and appeal to an otherwise dissonant sound. And dissonance can actually make people ill!

Listen to this — (dissonance) Do you really think those sounds should hit the road and go on tour together?

Now listen to this — (consonance) Big difference, right?

Our lives can either be in constant dissonance with each other or we can figure out how to act on these instructions to blend and fit together out of obedience to Christ. Say it with me, “blend and fit, blend and fit.”

The word is phroneo.  It means, “same opinion and same mind.” It does not mean “be identical, alike or copies”.  From this we learn we are to work together.  Active word here – WORK. It takes work for this word to be a part of the Christian experience. We need to fit or synchronize with each other.

I love the fact that Paul and Peter used the same phrase – “live in…” .  It’s not supposed to be a onetime occurrence. It’s a process of figuring each other out and working to fine tune our pitch for the best sound. That way everyone in the room will be able to sense the pleasantness of unity.

This behavior benefits ministry as we work together.  A friend and I would visit people in their homes in our community just to pray with them and encourage them. As we talked I would watch my friend’s facial expression change as he talked about their pain or delighted in affirming them. I would be so encouraged to hear tender wisdom coming from my friend. I would add a few comments and we would both finish up our time by praying for the person. I felt like we were in harmony, though we had not planned ahead about what we would say nor we saying identical words.

I also believe this behavior works well in conflict too! It is powerful to start out a heated argument with this thought, “Jesus loves this person and I love this person.” Can you disagree and still be in harmony? Of course you can, it’s called Jazz!

Prayer: Jesus, I would love to be a person that brings harmony and not dissonance. Help me bring a fitting word to a brother or sister that is experiencing chaos.  Give me wisdom to bring a peaceful perspective to a messy problem.

If you have a story of harmonizing with someone and it turned out somewhat pleasant , share it in the comments area and encourage someone to work on this area of their life.

6. Accept – one another

– proslambano (Rom 15:7)
Rom 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Let me be honest. I immediately know when someone likes me and accepts me. Call it a feeling, a vibe or impression. I can tell if someone is just putting up with me, or just pretending to be polite.

There could be other things contributing to their attitude such as being distracted, something else is on their mind, or they are just not in the mood to talk. Nonetheless, I can tell right away whether I’m accepted or not. It’s alright.

I just want to let you know that your body language is much more evident than you think. And there’s something about a phony smile too. Oh, and the drifting eyes that just can’t see to focus on what someone is saying for like two seconds. Like the politician-handshake that has moved on to the next constituent before you’ve had a chance to be supportive.

All of this, and more, is telling people that you could care less and you do not accept them. Yeah, its a feeling. Yeah, you say, “it’s not true.” But, what if it’s more than a feeling. There are desperate folks who just need to have a moment of human contact and they will ignore the fact that you are trying to get rid of them. Even they need acceptance.

So, how is it done? How do you know you are “accepted” by someone in the family of God? Is it time? Attention?

T. I. M. E.

Is it just as simple as using your name? I love the quote, “how do you spell love?- you spell it T. I. M. E.”

How do we get to the place in our relationships where we truly accept each other? What does that look like? The literal meaning is to “take to oneself” or receive. That seems pretty open, even non-judgmental. I think it would be hard to accept or receive someone and reject them at the same time.

Sometimes the simplest words to understand (by definition) are the hardest words to put into practice. This is one of those words.

And this acceptance brings praise to God? Wow! That’s wild!

Prayer: Lord, you know it’s hard for us to let certain folks into our lives. Give me opportunities to try this idea out so I can be better at accepting my brother or sister.

If you have a story of how you have shown that you accepted someone, PLEASE share it in the comments area. We all need help in this area.

7. Embrace – One Another

(greet, kiss, shake hands, give greeting)

Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; ​2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14;  Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14

The concept of “Embrace” is fun, but not for everyone.  For some, the idea of “Embracing” can be complicated.

Not everyone likes to be hugged, and not all of us are “touchy feely”. I get that. In fact growing up, my family did not hug at all.  When I was dating my wife and she would give me a hug and I would just stiffen up with my arms straight at my side.  I didn’t know what to do. When she would grab my hand I would reflexively flinch and pull away before I realized what I was doing.

Touch is such a powerful way to communicate love and tenderness.  Paul, uses this very physically expressive word for greeting, and it is not surprising at all. He’s instructing us to “enfold one another in the arms” – HUG!

There is now physical evidence that a 10-20 second hug actually increases some of the brain’s neurotransmitters. That alone has huge effects on blood pressure, cellular health and general well-being. It turns out that hugs are healthy for you!

I’d like to say to all those who just can’t stand hugging to “Get over it!”.  However, I truly understand it’s not that easy.

Oh, by the way, I am a hugger now. With guys I just give them a bear hug.  With the gals I give a safe side hug, but not before asking permission!  If I sense they may be uncomfortable, I just revert to a handshake because I want to respect their boundaries.

A handshake is nice, if done well. But, it just doesn’t communicate love like a hug can. Who wants to just shake Grandma’s hand?

Truthfully, you should consider yourself fortunate on this one! Most translations say to greet with a HOLY KISS! I have not seen much of that in our culture. Although I’ve been to Chile and Italy – it’s just normal there.

Prayer: God sometimes I know a welcoming hug is just what folks need. Help me be safe and brave enough to bring a friendly touch when I see someone who is like family to me.

 

8. Agree – with one another

(lego -speak the same thing) (I Cor 1:10)

1 Cor 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

If you read Paul’s instruction regarding the church, then look at the condition of today’s Church, you might assume two things.  Either that his instruction is impossible,  or that we have failed miserably in following biblical instruction.

There are approximately 41,000 Christian denominations in the world in the world today.  The majority of that growth took place after the year 1900.  Prior to that there were only 1600.  Taken from, Eric Hatfield’s Blog,

No matter how you look at it, this number reveals a deep problem.

41,000 different denominations does not sound

at all

like

AGREE WITH ONE ANOTHER.

EPIC FAILURE!

Okay, now that I’ve vented a little bit…

Paul’s uses of the word “agree” are not meant to portray Christians as mindless programmed parrot puppets reciting doctrinal truth. When Christians speak of Jesus they should sound like they are talking about the same person.  When friends spend time together they think similar thoughts and have similar passions.  It’s the same way with Jesus, when Christians hang out with HIM, they take on His character and His passions.  They know His mind and think His thoughts.  They are like married couples who can finish each other’s sentences after years of living together.

The result of our deep connection with Jesus should be that when we hang out with each other we should be speaking the same language. It should sound and seem familiar because we have the same BFF (Jesus).

Paul reasoning is that our agreeing with each other is for the sake of UNITY!  We are not to be self promoting but unified in promoting HIM.   If we were truly focused on Him we would not be splintering into countless factions, like an out of control cancerous growth!

So, I tell myself to think twice before blabbing my independent and perhaps unfounded thoughts about God.  I need to focus on Jesus, His word, His church and His people.

Prayer: Jesus, I cannot unify 41,000 different denominational issues, but I can unify my heart, mind and unruly mouth to agree with my brother. Help me sound like you today.

 

9. Serve – one another

(douleuo- Slavery,complete dependance,compulsory service to)

Gal 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Free to serve – what a concept! It sounds like a modern day commercial spinning bad news into a positive “be a better you” pitch. The Apostle Paul is genius! The freedom spice has been part of the human cookie dough since the beginning of our existence. And it is not easy to control! Though God created us with free will, we don’t always let Him have His way with our lives.

Freedom isn’t a new concept but neither is slavery. Our thinking says freedom equals autonomy and slavery equals a burdensome weight like being chained to an anchor.

Who would limit their options and shackle down their God-given rights to the most precious natural resource on the planet – CHOICE? Why would anyone purposely surrender themselves and their free will to serving others? Does it make sense to let go of our personal preferences when serving requires us to go against our human nature? Why is love so compelled to be restricted in this way?

Because…

wait for it…

the Kingdom of God is crazy backward from our stinking sin-stained thinking!

God’s freedom is love-bonded and restrained to righteousness. In The Kingdom of God we are called on to love one another with love and service that goes beyond human reasoning. We are in the process of becoming like Jesus. We define righteousness by looking at Him and doing what He did. He did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. In this way we lead others into His righteousness. This is the greatest service of all.
Paul says…Yeah, you’re free. Free to do as you please. But remember, there’s a Person and a purpose behind all those expansive options, His name is Jesus.

So, rather than splurge all that new-found fun on door number one “You and your lusties”, I challenge you to blow it all on door number two – “Serve one another”.

USE freedom.
WORK those opportunities.
GO NUTS spending … on one another.

It reminds me of the previous look at Honor one another that Paul promoted in Romans 12:10. If there’s one area believers should compete in – it’s love: outdo each other in love.

I challenge you to put all that wonderful, powerful self will on the starting block of tomorrow morning’s race. When the starter pistol fires, release your freedom to serve into a focused effort to help a struggling brother or sister reach the finish line.

Prayer: Father, I’ve never thought about using my choices and opportunities to serve someone else. I thought I was supposed to look after myself. Would you help me figure out how to serve someone out of my abundant options?