“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10, ESV)
Earlier in the year we memorized 1 John 2:15-17. Go back and review those verses and remember that God warns us about sins that involve “the pride of life.” We are inwardly oriented. We want our own good. We tend to seek our own honor before and above that of others. But God calls us away from that in the text before us this week. And the power of Christ is put on display when we understand that God transforms us in just this sort of thing.
It is interesting that both of these texts are framed in the consideration of the things we love. We are not to love the world. Remember that this does not mean we should not love people. It means that we are not to love the broken way of the world. We are not to look with longing to the ways of the world around us. The apostle Paul frames this positively in Romans 12:10 when he calls us to have hearts that are oriented toward others.
This call is not complex. We are to care for brothers and sisters in Christ with a sincere love. We are to look out for the good of others. This goes directly against the grain of looking our for our own good. It is the reflection of a renewed heart that only Jesus can give. It drives us to Jesus, rejoicing in the forgiveness he provides and hoping in the changes he can produce. This kind of love does not begin with a determination to just be more kind. It begins on our knees.
We are also to fight against disunity. Again, this is not complex. We are to outdo one another in showing honor. Earlier in the chapter (v. 3) Paul calls us away from selfishly thinking more of ourselves than we ought. When I was in my first year of high school football, I felt that my coach overlooked me. He had connections with another Junior High that fed into our High School. I felt he gave preference to some guys from that school. Could it have been that I just didn’t use sober judgment about my own skill level? Could it have been those guys were just faster, stronger, more capable? Couldn’t I have been a better teammate had I worked really hard and wanted their success for the good of the whole team?
But wait, if I don’t watch out for myself, no one else will. In the world system, that may be true. But in the body of Christ, we outdo one another in showing honor. I know that the illustration breaks down—high school football teams are not the body of Christ. The problem is that we tend to carry that broken way of living into the church. After all, we are broken people and we are in the church! So for the glory of God and the good of the body, we are to outdo one another in showing honor. Not in the sappy way of those cartoon chipmunks, Chip and Dale. But in sincere love for each other, we are to honor and bless each other. In that family, no one goes wanting.
By the way, you can read in Romans 12:14ff how the power of Christ transforms the way we interact with the world, as well. Blessings to you all.