Team of friends showing unity with their hands togetherDiversity complicates life, and perhaps for this reason we tend to surround ourselves with people of similar age, economic class, and outlook.

Church offers a place where infants and grandparents, unemployed and executives, immigrants and blue bloods can all come together.  One morning I sat sandwiched between an elderly man hooked up to a puffing oxygen tank on one side, while on the other side a breastfeeding baby grunted loudly and contentedly throughout the service.  Where else can we go to find that mixture?  When I walk into a new church, the more its members resemble each other, and resemble me, the more uncomfortable I feel.

Multi-Ethnic Group of People Holding Hands and Faith ConceptDiversity, however, only succeeds in a group of people who share a common vision.  In his prayer in John 17, Jesus stressed one request above all others: “that they may be one.”  Paul’s letters repeatedly call for unity and an end to divisions.  The existence of so many denominations worldwide shows how poorly Christians have fulfilled that goal.  Major church splits have occurred over such issues as what kind of bread to use in Eucharist and whether to make the sign of the cross with two or three fingers.  We have not, in fact, been faithful stewards of God’s grace.

Ideally, the church should be a place that reminds us of lasting truths: that God intends the best for us, that sin and failure are inevitable but forgiveness is guaranteed, that a supportive community bears burdens and comforts the needy.

A pastor friend of mine, Wayne Hoag, did a series of sermons on the phrase “one another.”  He found twenty-nine uses of that word in the New Testament which, taken together, show what a true community would look like.  They include the following:

  • Love one another
  • Forgive one another
  • Pray for one another
  • Bear one another’s burdens
  • Be devoted to one another
  • Regard one another as more important than yourself
  • Do not speak against another
  • Do not judge one another
  • Show tolerance for one another
  • Be kind to one another
  • Speak truth to one another
  • Build up one another
  • Comfort one another
  • Close-up of psychiatrist hands holding those of her patientCare for one another
  • Stimulate one another to love and good deeds.

I wonder how different the church would look to a watching world, not to mention how different history would look, if Christians everywhere followed that model.



(Excerpt from Vanishing Grace, to be released October 21)

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10 responses to “One Another”

  1. Hello Philip: We met at a Xian Legal Society Canada meeting in the 80’s. In case you did more than 1, this was the one where your luggage arrived much later and you spend a night in borrowed duds. Reading
    “The Bible Jesus Read” and enjoying it. I have spent a ton of time in the OT in the mid-90’s because God let me off on a track to discovery that the Bible is not a Criminal/Penal Code but a gracious Instruction Manual for dealing with conflicts and the reality of living in a fallen world among fallen people. Torah meant “instruction” before morphing into “The Black Letter of The Law.” The Septuagint fathers knew this and selected “nomos” to replace it. Paul also selected “nomos” because it meant “distribution of grain and grazing lands to the dumb animals” — and our translators morphed it into “Law” throughout the NT.
    I only discovered these things long after leaving the Bench and law to teach Western Law and Biblical principles for conflict resolution in the old USSR for 20-years.
    Glad to know He has graced you with years (I am, however, older then thou, so I guess more graced?).

    Bill Bontrager
    P.S. Did you notice that God did not grant permission to Satan to attack Job? God reminded Satan that Job was already in his hand, and then limited what Satan might do to him — at least that is how this lawyer reads the words.
    PPS. I also write, but have alwayy just tossed it up into the web.

  2. […] “Ideally, the church should be a place that reminds us of lasting truths: that God intends the best for us, that sin and failure are inevitable but forgiveness is guaranteed, that a supportive community bears burdens and comforts the needy.” —Philip Yancey […]

  3. janet says:

    How very true (and sad) this is. If the church were to live this tolerance out many people would want to know more and would feel comfortable going in to a church. Both society at large, and church in particular, would look very different.

  4. Susan Rodgerson says:

    I have been reading Vanishing Grace. I have found so many examples of me not promoting grace. I was confounded on how I became this way. And, I am only on
    Chapter 2.

    I wonder how many Christians and non Christians would call me smug, exclusive, and/or self-righteous. If they would call me part of the problem not the solution. If they would call me greedy, psycho, racist, stupid narrow-minded, fanatic, moron, cruel, nitwit, am I a moral police?

    I know that I cannot change anything in me myself.

    God help me to know how to love my neighbor as I love You.

    Thank you for your book.

  5. aisa says:

    Mr. Yancey,
    I beg to disagree to this statement, “sin and failure are inevitable…” I think there is a much better way of saying this. You know, this statement suggests that it is okay to sin and fail all the time because they are inevitable! What? If that is so, then righteousness which Jesus preached is of no value. As a Bible believing person, I believe that I should be committed to living victoriously over sins and failures as a proof of how much I value God’s grace. It is not being self righteous. No. It is obedience. God is gracious but lest we all forget that He also exerts justice. I do not claim perfection here; what I wish you had emphasize was obedience rather than the notion that sins and failures are inevitable. One’s ability to obey is a manifestation of God’s grace.

    Thank you.

  6. Turner Curry says:

    Thank you, Philip, for your ministry. I have read all of your books, some of them multiple times. I have one question that has been troubling me for a year or so. I don’t know where else to ask it, I am placing it here: You have written about the fact that homosexuality and abortion/child abandonment were rampant during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and then make a point that Jesus did not specifically address these issues in His teachings. I feel that you are missing a key point. Jesus’ earthly ministry was geographically confined to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Unless I am badly mistaken, homosexuality and abortion/child abandonment were NOT part of the Jewish culture to which Jesus preached. He lived at the same time but in a very different place. Therefore, the argument does not seem fair, since these issues were not part of Jewish culture. Historically speaking, the Apostle Paul, travelling the Roman empire, did address the sexual issues, and the early Christians addressed the abortion/child abandonment issue by example, taking in and caring for all, and thereby transforming the cultural customs over time.

  7. Chris says:

    I go to a really cool church in Colorado. About 15,000 people attend weekly. Yesterday our pastor said ‘sh*t’ 3 times in his message…i.e. ‘we all have sh*t (skubalon) in our lives’ and the like. It was kind of a instant reflex to be surprised by the use of the word on a beautiful Sunday morning. I did ask him about it and he said the word is used in the bible by Paul…skubalon. I love God’s church so much but I miss the holiness and reverence at times. However if more people are finding Jesus in this modern way..that’s great. Our church is so diverse with all of us being messy and we do have a lot of skubalon. : ) But I still get scared by the new ways of teaching the gospel.

  8. Gail says:

    Mr. Yancey, thank you for this book. I’ve been honored to be approved to pre-read it for my blog and I’ve loved every word. It’s helping me to remember my First Love and why I became a Christian. It has made me think about all the ways I’m falling short and how differently I want my life to look. I want my life to glorify God, to be gracious to His creation, and ultimately help others. Thank you again for the inspiration.

  9. Kanda says:

    Thank you for your inspired insights through your books, Mr. Yancey. My husband and I live in California but were recently in Colorado helping with flood relief efforts in the Lyons area. During our daily commutes to repair/building locations, we read your book, “What Good is God,” aloud in the car. On the side we’ve served as short term missionaries in various countries, as well as disaster relief workers in the US, and found the detailed descriptions of your travel experiences both fascinating and heartbreaking. As a recently retired professor of communication studies, I thoroughly enjoyed the speeches that followed each journey. I have a couple thoughts about one of the speeches in particular (Grace, Like Water, Flows Downward) if you’d care to email me. May God continue to give you the wisdom, wit, and courage to speak your faith.

  10. Vicki Bee says:

    I was informally kicked out of two churches. One I never heard a definitive as to why this had to occur but since the denomination in question was Catholic, and I was baptized as that, I can guess the reason. They don’t even let you take communion until you’re Confirmed by the priest and I never was because I was taken out of my home and adopted before the age of confirmation, but I took the sacrament at this church and maybe that’s why they did.
    Also, I wanted the priest to help me with something, I had no idea he’d get upset instead of helping me, and he didn’t want to do it. He preferred casting me out instead because I’d committed “the one sin (besides suicide) that’s unforgivable by the Lord.”

    The second one was such a silly reason I don’t believe it would translate across a modem to say it. I’m a paramedic, definitely NOT a writer and can find no way to get any tone across a modem, especially when there are no italics and boldface type anymore (not on my machine anyway.)

    On second thought, I suppose I was formally kicked out of the Catholic church but not ex-communicated. They met with the clergy and decided unanimously that I wasn’t suitable to keep going.
    But every time I’ve ever prayed – to find out if there was something inherently wrong with me that was preventing me from being able to fit into the right church – I’ve never felt the same displeasure coming from God, or Jesus, or whomever you pray to. As a Catholic you can’t pray to God the father until after confirmation. You have to pray to Jesus, so I’ve never felt comfortable praying to God the father, no matter how silly that sounds. I seem to feel totally “wrong” when praying to God the father. Certainly not worthy or mature enough yet because of failed confirmation, which girls don’t get until they’re 13.
    Anyway, I’ve never once felt Jesus being displeased with me the same way human beings are. I don’t know if that’s just me wanting to feel that way or if He really does have those emotions for me, but he’s always made me feel as if it’s not what He personally would have done…

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