“Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)
Could We Set The Bar Any Lower?
The church finds itself in a unique cultural moment—one where the best thing you can do for someone, we are told, is to tolerate them. In fact, I would go so far as to say that tolerance is the new golden rule of our culture.
You see, we’ve largely adopted a policy of “do no harm,” meaning that if you can steer clear of anything that might be perceived as a micro-aggression, there will be no cause for grievance and you will not be the object of anyone’s outrage. Which makes you one of the good guys, the elites.
But if tolerance is our most prized virtue, I feel I should ask, Could we set the bar any lower in terms of cultural expectations for how people are supposed to treat each other?
I only ask because, from a biblical perspective, there’s a glaring problem with this new-fangled golden rule of culture. Namely, that tolerance isn’t necessarily virtuous. It might be polite. You could call it good manners, sure. But there isn’t anything especially altruistic or praiseworthy about it.
For example, if I were to say to my wife, “I tolerate you,” it wouldn’t exactly make her feel loved and appreciated. Why? Because relationships cannot be sustained by tolerance. It cannot cause people to flourish in any meaningful way.
And yet, COEXIST bumper stickers abound. Slap one of those puppies on the rear window of your ’98 Subaru Forester and, congratulations, you’ve made the world a better place!
Such is the prevailing attitude all around us. Every day.
A Culture of Real Honor
But once we bring the Gospel into the picture, the bar is raised significantly. The Gospel moves us past the point of assuming that as long as we’re not offending anyone we must be doing okay in life. It demands much more than that. It demands that we actively honor others, not just passively tolerate them. And this is especially true when it comes to how we relate to one another in the church.
You see, interpersonal relationships in the church are supposed to be defined by what Christ has done. This is much more than merely “coexisting” alongside fellow believers with some semblance of tolerant civility like the rest of the world does. Instead we’re entrusted with the responsibility of actively cultivating relationships that bear witness to the truthfulness of the Gospel.
In Romans 12:10, the apostle Paul lays it all out in no uncertain terms. He shows how the Gospel practically impacts relationships in the local church. And he does it in just six words—“Outdo one another in showing honor.”
You see, Paul had spent enough time in local churches to recognize that every congregation is communicating something through its culture. This means that when we meet together as a church, our practices and patterns of conduct are attesting to what it is we truly value and who it is we truly worship.
Therefore, the manner in which we conduct ourselves on the Lord’s Day has the potential to do one of two things. It can either serve to obscure the Gospel or to magnify the Gospel. And for Paul, this comes down to whether or not we will humble ourselves in order that we may honor others. Just look at what he says in Philippians 2:3-4,
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
So let’s get practical. How does this work in a real-life worship gathering? In what specific ways can we honor one another when we’re together? For starters, let’s consider this helpful insight from Ray Ortlund,
In a gospel culture, the people do not eye one another with negative scrutiny, merciless comparisons and guarded aloofness, but they move toward one another with rejoicing, acceptance and honor. Why? Because in every true Christian, Christ is there. David wrote, “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3). There is excellence in every true Christian, and it isn’t hard to find. About two questions into a conversation, the excellence will start pouring out of that person. Our churches tend to live on a starvation diet of personal affirmation. Let’s risk a more generous tone of delight in one another.
Ortlund concludes that this “is not flattery,” but rather “it is Gospel obedience to honor another Christian.” Indeed.
LifePoint, we ought to come to church good and ready to sincerely honor our fellow brothers and sisters in the household of faith—to rejoice in their gifts and delight in their excellencies, for they are precious souls for whom Jesus has died and in whom He now dwells by His Spirit.
So why not openly celebrate that reality? Why not make a big deal about how you see Christ in others? After all, God is calling us to set the relationship bar much higher than where it’s been set by the unbelieving world.
So let’s put aside the temptation to obey the golden rule of our culture. And let’s humbly obey the Golden Rule of Christ our Lord: “So whatever you wish others would do to you, do also to them” (Mat. 7:12). Indeed, only the Gospel gets us thinking in those terms—in terms of conducting ourselves toward others based solely on their real value as blood-bought image-bearers of the living God.
After all, our heavenly Father spared no expense—not even the life of His own Son!—to make each of us His own dear children. And if God was unwilling to withhold Jesus for us, how could we ever think of withholding honor from one another? How could we ever be content with mere tolerance?
Songs for Sunday, November 06, 2016:
Behold Our God
(Jonathan Baird, Meghan Baird, Ryan Baird, Stephen Altrogge)
10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)
(Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman)
The Power Of The Cross
(Keith Getty, Stuart Townend)
No Longer Slaves
(Brian Johnson, Joel Case, Jonathan David Helser)