There’s a small Greek word that has big implications for the Christian life … and for education. It’s allelon, the English translation of which is simply “one another.”
It appears in verses like 1 Peter 1:22 (“love one another earnestly from the heart”) and Galatians 6:2 (“bear one another’s burdens”).
In fact, once you begin looking for it, allelon appears almost everywhere you turn in the New Testament. Here’s a sampling:
live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16)
welcome one another (Rom. 15:7)
admonish one another (Rom. 15:14)
greet one another with a holy kiss (Rom. 16:16)
wait for one another (1 Cor. 11:33)
be servants of one another (Gal. 5:13)
bear with one another lovingly (Eph. 4:2)
be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32)
be subject to one another (Eph. 5:21)
look to the interests of one another (Philip. 2:4)
forgive one another (Col. 3:13)
teach one another (Col. 3:16)
encourage one another (1 Thess. 4:18)
build one another up (1 Thess. 5:11)
be at peace with one another (1 Thess. 5:13)
do good to one another (1 Thess. 5:15)
exhort one another (Heb. 3:13)
be hospitable to one another (1 Pet. 4:9)
have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7)
pray for one another (James 5:16)
confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)
This suggests that Christian discipleship is inescapably tied to relationships with others. In short, the Christian life is life together—it is intrinsically communal.
We shouldn't be surprised by this, for we're made in the image of a God whose very nature is community—God’s life is life together among Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If our mission involves revealing to the world this sort of God—and the relationships He makes possible—then it’s only logical that this mission is carried out by a community (called church).
Simply put, the form matches the content.
As the great missionary Leslie Newbigin pointed out, a salvation whose very essence is the restoration of broken harmony between man and God must be communicated in and by a community which embodies the restored harmony of which it speaks. “A gospel of reconciliation can only be communicated by a reconciled fellowship.”
This should have significant implications for higher educational institutions, especially those that are motivated by and teach about a Christian worldview. The form that teaching takes should match the content being taught. That’s why an essential pillar of the Millis Institute is community.
We believe that deep learning—the kind that forms character and transforms lives—takes place amidst life together. A tutor watching the facial expressions of students to discern their level of understanding. Peers turning to one another to ask questions or share insights. Faculty members eating meals together and inviting students into their conversation. Staff and students worshipping side-by-side. These practices flourish amidst a community of learning, where people spend time face-to-face with one another, inside and outside the classroom.
It is primarily through cultivating such relationships that students develop the trust necessary to follow where teachers lead—i.e. to focus on what teachers ask them to focus on and to love what they encourage them to love.