This is one in a series of articles that looks at the another passages in the New Testament.
There are 47 ‘one another’ verses in the New Testament that give instructions to the church. It is no small thing that the New Testament puts so much emphasis on the interrelationships of the body of Christ. Christians are made to live in community with each other, and God has so ordered the community that we are mutually dependent on one another. It’s no surprise then that thirteen one another verses deal with the unity of the church.
The first one another verse in the New Testament is found in Mark 9:50, where Jesus commands his disciples to be at peace with one another.
Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.
Let’s start by focusing in on the last part of verse 50: Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another. Let me make four observations.
This is not a suggestion
There are two commands in the last bit of verse 50: have salt and be at peace. These are not suggestions. Jesus, the Kings of the universe, commands his followers to have salt (whatever that means), and to be at peace. If we are followers of Jesus we can’t dismiss commands like these. That means I can never be content with a lack of peace in the body of Christ. The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Paul’s exhortation extends to all those we live with. How much more then should we be concerned about the peace between ourselves and fellow believers. We cannot sleep on this. Let me give one example of where I’ve seen this go wrong. When there is a lack of peace between people in a particular church, whether it’s between two individuals, or two larger groups, or an individual and the leadership of a church, the most common and consistent response I’ve seen is for people to leave the church. Instead of pursuing peace with one another people pursue another church. It may feel like peace because everyone is removed from tension and hostility, but it’s certainly not being at peace with one another. There’s no doubt moving—or having people removed if you can—is the easier option, but it’s simply not the option Jesus gave us.
The aim is peace
“And be at peace with one another.” That’s the goal of this last section in Mark 50. Jesus want’s peace to reign in the church. To be at peace carries the idea of being reconciled. It makes sense that Jesus would want us to live lives that are reconciled to one another since his life, death, and resurrection reconcile us to God. Jesus, through his death, makes peace between sinful people and a holy God (Col. 1:20). The expectation is that, just as we have been reconciled to God and are at peace with him, so we will be reconciled to one another and be at peace with the church. There are thousands of things that can cause rifts and divisions within the church. Our personal preferences (think music, decor, and the like), our opinions on tertiary theological matters (I once had a man leave our church because I didn’t agree with his particular interpretation of Revelation), and very often our personalities. The aim, in the face of every division, is to be reconciled.
The focus is the church
I’ve hinted at this above, but let me make it blunt—this is a command given to the church. The audience who heard this command, the people who made up the ’one another’ group, were professing followers of Jesus. I say this because there are times when the church simply cannot be at peace with the world. When it is possible, we should do everything we can on our end to be at peace with those outside the body of Christ, but there are times where there simply cannot be peace between the church and the world. There are some divisions that can only be remedied by the blood of Jesus, and apart from the transforming work of God’s grace, we will simply not have peace in every area with those who are not followers of Jesus. It’s important to point this out, and to keep it in mind as we look at the other one another passages, because we often see people taking the one another verses and applying them broadly to all humanity. That is not what the Bible has in mind in these one another passages. They are given to the church, and they can only be fulfilled by the church.
The key is to have salt in ourselves
If you want peace in the body, then you have to be salty. That’s right, if you want to experience reconciliation between you and another Christian both of you have to get salty. It’s ironic that today this phrase means the exact opposite of what Jesus intended. When you hear someone take about getting salty today they mean getting angry or mouthy with someone. Shocker: that’s not the key to peace in the church. So what did Jesus mean when he said have salt in yourself? In the lead up to verse 50 Jesus called his followers to radical sacrifice: cut off you hand, cut off your foot, tear out your eye if they cause you to sin. Like virtually every teaching in Christian history I don’t think Jesus was being literal here (otherwise every Christian would be without feet, hands, or eyes—not to mention any other part of ourselves we sin with!). But Jesus was seriously calling us to radical sacrifice; nothing you have is so precious that it’s worth keeping if it will keep you out of the kingdom. Nothing you have is so good that it’s worth keeping if it leads you into sin, so willingly sacrifice the things that keep you from following Jesus. In verse 49 we see fire and salt connected. Interestingly, both fire and salt were important in the Old Testament sacrificial system. Burnt offerings were to be completely consumed by fire, creating a pleasing aroma to God (Lev. 1). Additionally, sacrifices had to be seasoned with salt (Lev. 2:13). We see these two some elements come up in Jesus’ teaching, right after he’s called us to radical sacrifice. Putting all that together, I think when Jesus tells us to be salty he’s telling us to sacrifice things that cause sin in our lives. Having salt in ourselves is another way of saying, “live a holy life.”
That’s important for us to see. Any division in the body of Christ can ultimately be connected back to our sin. Pride that demands we have things our way. Puffed up knowledge that asserts we know what’s best. Selfishness that puts our brothers and sisters needs behind our own. You get the idea. And don’t be so quick to take the high road. Chances are, if you’re not at peace with another Christian you’re thinking about their sin right now. There’s a little part of you that’s pumping it’s fist, saying I knew it was their fault. But it always takes two to tango. It’s your own sin that caused you to respond however you have rather than make whatever sacrifices are necessary to be at peace. The reality is, when there’s no peace both parties are almost always to blame.
We need peace in the body of Christ. I’m certain of that because our King commands us to pursue it. Get salty, make sacrifices to put your sin to death, and be at peace. If you’re not at peace with someone today, pray and ask God to show you what sin in your heart is keeping you from reconciling. At the same time, lovingly pray for your brother or sister in Christ that God would show them the same thing. Then do something! Don’t sit in a staring contest waiting for the other person to blink. Get salty, get up and go make peace. The greatest thing about being salty is that it both corrects and prevents division. That means no matter where we are, lots of division or none, we must pursue the salt of sacrifice toward a holy life to keep division at bay. Church be holy, and be at peace.