Christian congregations were designed by God to operate like a well-trained military unit. Our strength is not only found in the Godhead with Jesus as the captain of our host, but we are supposed to spiritually and materially have each other’s six. If you know military terminology, you know having someone’s six means you’ve got their back–you’re looking out for their best interest by being prepared to sacrifice yourself if necessary.
The apostle Paul, speaking by the Holy Spirit, in several places let the church know this was how they were to carry out their mission, especially when it came to defending worthy leaders. Concerning Timothy, he told the Corinthian church,
10 Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.
11 Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren. 1 Corinthians 16
Paul instructed them to make sure they alleviated any potential fears Timothy would have. One way they were to do this was by watching his six to make sure no one despised him as he carried out the godly ministry he was called to do in the time he was at their church. Like we should do for our godly leaders, Paul expected them to do whatever was within the bounds of godliness to make sure Timothy conducted his work in peace while in their midst and as he made his way to meet Paul abroad.
Similar instructions elsewhere from Paul were also applied to other church leaders as well as to lay members. It was understood that these actions were to be reciprocated because Paul also instructed Timothy,
12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 1 Timothy 4
Churches looked out for Timothy and Timothy was supposed to look out for the churches by exercising his spiritual and material gifts to encourage the church in godly works. Not only were churches told to let no man despise him, Timothy was supposed to be prepared to defend himself under godly means by letting no man despise him. So having each other’s six takes into account both corporate responsibility AND personal, individual responsibility. The two should be in synch. Therefore,
- Paul expected the church to give funds and material necessities to ministers (1 Cor. 9:7-11, 14), but he also had a job outside the church to pay his own way (2 Thess. 3:8-10).
- Paul expected the saints to pray for him (2 Cor. 1:11), but he also prayed for them and for himself (Rom. 15:30, Eph. 1:1).
- We are expected to bear each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), but also bear our own burdens (Gal. 6:5).
- We are supposed to look out for the well-being and safety of other saints (Phil. 2:4), but also mind our own business to care for ourselves (2 Thess. 3:10-12).
- Once we acknowledge and deal with our own sins and faults, we can point out the sins and faults of others to help them deal with theirs (Matt. 7:3-5, 1 Tim. 1:15, James 5:16).
Harry A. Gaylord