Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)
I wonder if Romans 12:10 is one of the most under-obeyed commands in Scripture. I wonder if we have lowered our standard to “Do no harm to one another,” which is passive, and if we are not destroying each other we must be doing okay. But the gospel is all about the glory of God coming down on sinners (2 Thessalonians 2:14). Honor to one another is an obvious next step. The doctrine of glorification (Romans 8:30) creates a culture of honor (Romans 12:10). Our faithfulness to the gospel, therefore, should prompt people to say about our churches, “How they honor one another!”
What might keep us from pressing further in this way?
One, we might fear that honoring one another could appear to be mere flattery, even manipulation. And yes, we should carefully watch our hearts against insincerity. But do we ever obey perfectly in any respect? Obeying imperfectly is better than disobeying for fear of imperfection.
Two, we might think, Who am I to confer honor on anyone? What is my opinion worth? Good thought. Humble thought. But it isn’t us conferring the honor. It is God. Our part is to celebrate the honor and glory God is giving. The New Testament speaks of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Whenever we see the glory appearing, it would be wrong not to celebrate it.
Three, we might not know how to show honor. Some of us grew up in homes where put-downs set the tone. But the gospel of glory is all we need to begin a bright new tradition in every life, every home, every church. As we reach for nobler things, the God of peace will be with us to help us (Philippians 4:8-9).
Four, we might not see things in other believers worthy of honor. If so, maybe we need to look more closely, more kindly. “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3). Every saint has some excellence, and it isn’t hard to see. But an outlook of negative scrutiny will impute dark things to admirable people. Maybe we need to repent of an ungenerous spirit toward truly worthy people.
As Paul Tournier wrote in Guilt and Grace, pages 15-16, “In everyday life we are continually soaked in this unhealthy atmosphere of mutual criticism, so much so that we are not always aware of it and we find ourselves drawn unwittingly into an implacable vicious circle: every reproach evokes a feeling of guilt in the critic as much as in the one criticized, and each one gains relief from his guilt in any way he can, by criticizing other people and in self-justification.” We are drenched every day in this fault-finding spirit of worldliness.
But we who are destined for glory are now commanded by God to create alternative cultures of honor, called churches, where people are lifted up, their accomplishments celebrated, their strengths admired, their weaknesses forgiven. This new relational environment has high standards, in keeping with the glory of the gospel itself.
Faithfulness to the gospel requires more of us than adherence to a doctrinal statement; it also requires of us a whole new way to treat one another, a way marked by glory and honor. Who couldn’t flourish there?