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Considering Mutuality – Where in Scripture?

Posted by on Dec 16, 2009 in community, discipleship, fellowship | 3 comments

In my previous posts in this series, I introduced the topic of mutuality as “a reciprocal relation between interdependent entities” and suggested that mutuality between believers is related to maturity in Christ (“Considering Mutuality – Introduction“). Next, I described “individualism” and “collectivism” and suggested that “mutuality” stands apart from both (“Considering Mutuality – Individualism and Collectivism“).

In this post, I would like for us to consider where we find the concept of mutuality in Scripture. Unfortunately, because the data is so extensive, I will not be able to list all of the passages. Instead, I want to point out a few instances of mutuality in Scripture.

To begin with, the widespread use of the term “one another” in the New Testament points us toward the importance of mutuality. “One another” is the English translation of the Greek reciprocal pronoun ἀλλήλων (allÄ“lōn). A reciprocal pronoun indicates that more than one person is involved in both carrying out an activity and in the results of the activity. Thus, when Scripture indicates that we should “love one another,” “teach one another,” “exhort one another,” “serve one another,” etc., these are mutual activities in which more than one person is involved in both the activity and the result.

Second, consider the use of the Greek preposition σύν (sÅ«n), either as a standalone preposition or as a prepositional prefix to verbs. This pronoun is usually translated “with” or “together with.” An important usage of this preposition is found in Ephesians 2:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Ephesians 2:4-6 ESV)

The highlight English terms are translations of Greek verbs with the σύν (sūn) prepositional prefix. We understand that we are not made alive, raised up, or seated along or on our own or by our own power, but these occur in mutual relation with Christ.

However, we find often find σύν (sūn) prefixed words indicating the same mutual relationship between believers. Consider just this one passage:

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:6 ESV)

The highlighted words in the passage above are all single nouns prefixed with σύν (sūn) indicating a mutual relationship.

As a final example – although I could give many, many more – consider one of the primary forms of “teaching” between believers: the verb διαλέγομαι (dialegomai). While it is often used in the interaction between believers (i.e. Acts 19:9; Acts 20:7; Acts 20:9), and is sometimes translated “reasoned,” “talked,” or even “preached,” the term indicates less of a one-to-many teaching method than a many-to-many teaching method. Thus, even in teaching we find mutual relationships between believers.

So, in these examples, I’m demonstrated that mutuality – that is, followers of Jesus Christ living in interdependent relationships with one another -  is not only present in Scripture, but mutuality is widespread in the New Testament. Therefore, we should take mutuality seriously as a means of relating to one another.


3 Comments

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  1. 12-16-2009

    Alan,
    I appreciate so much that you make this point again and again in your blog and at your church. A sense of the necessity of mutual community is often lacking in contemporary churches, and it is refreshing to see someone redirecting us from a scriptural basis.

    You probably already have something similar, but in case you don’t I wanted to let you know that Dr. Wade has a list of the “one another” passages in the NT. Let me know if you’d like me to send it to you.

    Matt Emerson

  2. 12-16-2009

    I have to say again Alan. I am not being ugly, or pointing fingers or anything else; however….

    In most churches mutualality is okay between the laity. However, mutualality between leaders and non-leaders is as rare as a dinosaur egg. If believers are really going to grow and leaders are going to be effective in the transformation process, then the chasim between leaders and non-leaders as it relates to mutual accountability, mutual discipleship, mutual edification and mutual teaching (Colossians 3) will have to be closed. Leaders need to be plugged into the community and not hovering above and this is the only way this is going to change. The reason so many Christian are flakey with one another is because they are modeling what they see in their leaders. That is again why hospitality is important. I get to dive into your life and see you and begin to model who you are as we puruse Christ and not only that through that relationship since I am full fledge adult in the Kingdom of God, filled with Christ’s Spirit, I too can help you in your purusit of Christ.

  3. 12-16-2009

    Matt,

    The “necessity of mutual community” (I like that phrase, thanks!) is exactly what I’m talking about. And, yes, I have a list of the “one another” passages.

    Lionel,

    I’m becoming more and more convinced that it must work in both directions. I’m publishing two posts next week dealing with the implications of “mutuality” to both leaders and non-leaders.

    -Alan