Thursday, January 2, 2014

Outdo One Another (Romans 12:10)

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10, ESV)

I just started preparing to teach Romans chapters 12-16 after completing the first eleven chapters last June. I haven’t decided whether to start with verse one of chapter twelve or to take up where I left off in a November sermon, which would mean starting at verse ten. As I read verse 10 in the English Standard Version I was struck with the wording used by the translators, saying, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” There is so much that we are told to do with excellence, while at the same time not letting our excellence be a cause for pride or boasting. Brought together in this short sentence is the concept of going above and beyond in honoring others. In the New American Standard translation the verse reads, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;” (Romans 12:10, NASB95)

I hadn’t really thought about a level of giving preference to others until I read the ESV translation. But as I read this translation and as I took time to look up the Greek word used to lead to this translation I found the word allelon, which means to lead the way or go before, to go before as a leader might. And as I looked at how it might have led to these varying translations I started to see a fuller meaning. Rather than one being right and the other wrong, I saw that they were instead two sides of a same coin. In other words, as we are setting a path in honoring others we are choosing to give preference to them as if they are in a sense our leaders who are due honor.

Think about that for a moment. When we choose to honor others or to give consideration to their needs by prioritizing them we are showing them honor which might not even be warranted. But at the same time, this verse is a one another verse which means that it is supposed to be reciprocal or go both ways. Yet if we stop showing honor because it isn’t going both ways, then we are not leading the way in doing so. And when we start to withhold seeking another’s best, and we start to focus on what is lacking toward ourselves, then we start to make ourselves bigger and the honor we seek becomes our own.

It is for that reason that we are to be devoted to one another in brotherly love, because Scripture tells us that love covers a multitude of sins (or is longsuffering toward those who do so). “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, NASB95)

Scripture reminds us that while we were sinners that Christ, because of His great love, died for us. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NASB95) God did not demand we honor Him before He offered us salvation. He did not say, “If you do better, then I will give you a chance.” No, we did not deserve His love and forgiveness, yet He gave it to us and His Son humbly took on the form of man for us. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5–8, NASB95)

Another important consideration is that these one another verses, of which there are many covering a large number of topics, are directed to believers and how they relate to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. In that sense we have a whole collection of one another’s speaking together, with none of them standing alone. These do include rebuking and correcting along with being longsuffering. They even include instructions on how we deal with those who are disobedient to the word. And we are to approach our dealings with one another with an eye to their best. John MacArthur, in his study Bible, described our giving preference to one another with honor this way, “To show genuine appreciation and admiration for fellow believers by putting them first” (Phil. 2:3). (MacArthur Study Bible) “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3, ESV)

Christians are not doormats for each other, but they are rather people who know the great love of their God and the incredible sacrifice or their Savior and Lord, and because of that love they give themselves back to God as a spiritual sacrifice evidenced in their relations to other believers.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1, NASB95)

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” … “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Colossians 3:17, 23–24, NASB95)

And as we treat one another in this manner we evidence to the world around us a way of living which is different from everything they know.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, NASB95)

Outdoing one another is not a competition to see who can do it better, but rather it is doing our best to honor God in how we humbly treat each other.

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