The Missing One Another

The “one another” passages in the New Testament are my favorite way of defining the textures and contours of spiritual community. The phrase comes from the Greek word allelon which means “one another, each other, mutually, or reciprocally.” Each time it’s used as an imperative command and the basis for true Christian community.

Love one another is the most frequently referenced (16 times). But the biblical use of one another includes nearly 60 other commands for how we are to relate to one another in community. For example: be devoted to one another, honor one another above yourselves, live in harmony with one another, build up on another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, be kind and compassionate to one another, submit to one another, teach, comfort, encourage, exhort, pray for, and show hospitality to one another.

However, as I’ve pondered the one another’s over the years, what’s notably absent from the list is “listen to one another.” Why would that not be included? It’s one of my many questions for God, given the essential nature of listening in every meaningful relationship.

The Scriptures do tell us how to speak to one another: with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord…yielding to each other as you would to Christ (Eph. 5: 19-21). And there are certainly references to listening within passages such as “let each of you look not to his own interests, but also to the interests of others; do nothing from rivalry/selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3,4) Additionally, Jesus commands us, “Consider carefully how you listen” (Luke 8:18) and “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15). But no specific “listen to one another” command.

One of the best parallels to “listen to one another” is found in the book of James. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1: 19-25)

Listening to one another is needed today in the body of Christ. Frankly, we simply don’t know how to listen. Why is that the case? Because listening implies proactive consideration and concern for relationship, as expressed in empathy, compassion, and mutual understanding.

Consider the conflicts in our culture and unfortunately in the church today. How much genuine listening is going on? Little to none. Instead, we hurl insults, opinions, interpretations, and unfounded assumptions as missiles directed to the soul and character of the person(s) involved. Lord, have mercy upon us.

I’ve often said, “without intentional with-ness we simply don’t have an integrated witness” – and with-ness requires presence and presence is only fully expressed when we look in each other’s eyes, honor one another as a beloved child of God, and truly hear one another’s words and the heart those words represent.

When is the last time you were truly, fully, and genuinely listened to…and, when is the last time you offered loving presence and a genuine desire to listen to another?

It’s time we learn how best to honor, hear, and hold one another’s words prayerfully (not disregardingly), reflectively (not defensively), and lovingly (not destructively). And, it’s time we avoid all manner of gossip, slander, falsehood, bitterness, rage, and anger. Instead, let love be our guide in all of our relationships with one another in the body of Christ.

Listen to one another. It’s one of the best ways to love one another. Our Christian witness depends upon it.


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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.