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Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:9–10 ESV)

We are considering the various commands in the scriptures that speak about what we are called to do for “one another” in Christ. Today we are going to examine the teaching that we are to show honor for one another.

Understanding Honor

What does it mean to honor someone? We see many commands regarding honor in the scriptures. Perhaps the one command that is most memorable is to honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2). But there are other commands like in 1 Peter 2:17, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17 ESV) Peter also commanded the need to show honor in marriage (1 Peter 3:7). Honor is an important concept in the scriptures. Honor means to estimate with value, accord recognition, and show appreciation. The command, therefore, is that we would show genuine appreciation and admiration for others. We will be quick to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, and demonstrate a genuine love for others without jealousy.

The point is that we would regard one another as valuable. We would see the worth of one another and never consider another as valueless. I have seen this in other congregations and you may have seen this sad scene as well: a member or a family leaves and the attitude is that the church does not care. They do not see the value in the other person and so they say in their hearts essentially, “Good riddance.” When this is our attitude toward other Christians we do not show honor. We are not estimate them with value or appreciating them.

This problem is further amplified when we bulldoze the beliefs of others. Someone has a point of view regarding the doctrines of the scriptures and we marginalize those beliefs because we do not value the person. We think that we are right and we do not honor the other person. This is when we see the “it’s my way or the highway” mentality. Either get on board and do what we say or get out. This kind of attitude develops among members, leaders, and elders when we do not choose to honor one another, assigning value to that person we are considering.

I want you to listen to how the apostle Paul pictured how this should look in the church.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:21–26 ESV)

Notice how Paul illustrates the church as a human body. We bestow greater honor on the parts that are less honorable, that is, clothing them. Now listen to the point in the middle of verse 24: “God has composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body.” What is supposed to happen so that there are no divisions in the body? We give greater honor to the parts of this church that are lacking honor. Notice what this looks like in verses 25-26: “That the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

Please underline this statement: the members may have the same care for one another. All are cared for equally. All are joined together equally. There is not more concern for one person than another. There is not greater care for one person than another. We are to estimate the same value for each other equally. This is what God does. God shows no partiality. God values each soul equally. We see this in his parables depicting how he leaves 99 and seeks out one lost sheep and the great rejoicing that follows from finding that lost one. We must honor each other equally because God ascribes that value to each of us.

Outdo One Another

But notice that Paul did not merely say to honor each other. Look at the text again and consider what Paul commands. “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). The Greek word is hard to translate into one English word. The ESV, NRSV, and HCSB read “outdo.” The NASB and NKJV read “give preference.” The NET reads “show eagerness.” The Greek word means to “lead the way, go on before.” Paul says that I want you to lead the way in showing honor for one another. The idea is not that we put ourselves before others in regards to importance or worth but we give honor to others first and put them first. Lead the way in showing honor for others. Lead the way in showing respect and value for each other.

I want you think about what that would look like in this church. If you are commanded to outdo one another in showing honor that you will lead the way in showing value, then we are all trying to outdo each other is giving the other person honor. I will honor you while you are in the process of honoring another. Each of us are showing respect, appreciation, and value to others, with no regard for our own evaluation. We are outdoing each other in bestowing honor on each other. Now bring back in what we read in 1 Corinthians 12:24-26. We do not honor the people that we think are honorable. We do not value the people who are valuable to us. Remember that Paul said that we will honor and value those who are lacking. We will look to the lacking and hurting and give them just as much care as everyone that we honor, care for, and love.

The Sin of Self-Glorification

What keeps us from honoring one another as God has called us to do? Ultimately, our problem is that we seek our own glory and honor. Jesus repeatedly condemned the Pharisees for loving the places of honor (Matthew 23:6; Mark 12:39; Luke 20:46). In fact, Jesus told a parable about this very problem.

7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:7–14 ESV)

This parable is not about social etiquette. This is a parable about outdoing others in showing honor in God’s kingdom. You go sit in the low place, the place that lacks honor. You let yourself be last and give honor to others. I cannot tell how much I appreciate how often I see Christian women do this when it comes to meals. I go on gospel meetings and the woman who has been cooking this meal and labored hours over it is the last person to grab a plate and sit down to eat. That is what this parable is picturing. That is the humble heart Jesus values. I am not first. I am not second. I am last. I do not need honor. You should have the honor. We need to teach our children this principle. They need to learn that they are last and not first and you need to do that in all kinds of life circumstances. Let the older go through the door first. Let the older eat first. Let others be first. God is teaching us that we are not first.

Notice in Luke 14:12-14 Jesus also points out that honor needs to be shown equally. Honor is not reserved only for your family and friends. Honor all people. We outdo one another in showing honor. Further, Peter said that we must honor everyone and honor the king (1 Peter 2:17). Peter said we show honor in marriage (1 Peter 3:7). Listen to this command by the writer of Hebrews: “Marriage is to be honored by all” (Hebrews 13:4). We need to honor our marriages. Assign value to your marriage. Uphold it will respect and honor your spouse. Think about how beautiful marriage would be if the husband always acted that the wife was number one and he was number two, and the wife acted so that the husband was number one and she was number two. How beautiful to see in marriage the two outdoing one another in showing honor. How beautiful in the church to see us outdoing one another in showing honor. How beautiful this world would be if all would listen to the Lord and outdo one another in showing honor. Give greater honor to others so that there be no divisions (1 Corinthians 12:24-26). This is God’s picture for marriage, family, the church, and the world. Let us begin today in outdoing one another in showing value and honor toward each other.