Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. —Ephesians 4:25
James Jordan has said somewhere that we Christians need to one-another one another, using one-another as a verb. It’s a clever way to make the point that as Christians we are all in the same camp. The Greek word ἀλλήλων (one another), appears in the New Testament ninety-four times. That’s a lot, so it must be important.
It’s also important that Paul set a requirement for this one-anothering, namely, putting away falsehood. It’s not a requirement in the moral sense of an injunction like, “you can’t go to bed until you brush your teeth.” It’s not something that ought to be done. Rather, it’s something that cannot be done until the requirement is met. It’s more like, “the night won’t disappear until the sun rises.” There is a necessary condition to it because it is impossible to one-another another until after we stop valuing falsehood. The very act of valuing falsehood stops people from one-anothering one another.
The reason that people don’t one-another one another is that they do not believe that they are in substantial unity with some particular group of other(s). Christianity has been divided up into a thousand sects. It’s impossible to be Christian without belonging to some particular sect. Yet, each sect mitigates against the unity of Christianity. With the sect mindset, the very act of belonging destroys unity. What a mess we’ve made of it! Paul says to us that in order to one-another one another, we must put this falsehood away. We must embrace the larger and/or prior truth of Christian unity and stop claiming sectarian identity.
Unity is not something that Christians need to build. Common theology will be the result of living in Christian unity, not the cause of it. Trying to build common theology as the precursor of unity cannot happen because the common theology comes from living in faith with one another. We have been approaching it from the wrong end because we believe wrongly. We’ve got it arsy varsy—backwards.
(from Ephesians—Recovering the Vision of a Sustainable Church In Christ, forthcoming, 2014)