Genuine Love races to show honour:
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)
This is the conclusion of my brief series on genuine love from Romans 12. In the final stanza, we are called to “outdo one another in showing honour” as another example of what genuine love looks like.
Honour is not a word that is often used any more. It can have many senses, but generally means to show respect, and to give recognition and praise, or to ascribe a high value to something. If we are to genuinely love one another, we must be engaged in giving recognition to each other, and showing that others are valuable. Not that we are merely called to ‘pump one another’s tires’, rather, we must be looking for an recognizing the conquests of God’s grace in the lives of our brothers and sisters.
As God’s children, we are placed in a position of high honour. What is amazing is that God actually delights to honour us! John 12:26 “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” Once again, God’s love sets the standard for ours. God’s love shows recognition for his grace in his people, and will go on doing so throughout eternity.
One simple test of fake love is that it loves to be honoured. It will flatter and manipulate and put on shows so that others will take notice and offer public recognition. Genuine love is humble, and loves to see others honoured and recognized. In fact, this love isn’t content to occasionally give recognition to others, but it actively seeks and competes to see who can show the most honour to others.
The foundation of this drive to give honour is that as Paul has just stated a few verses earlier, we are all members of one body – the body of Christ. In his discussion of the church as the body of Christ in 1 Cor 12:26, Paul says “…if one member is honoured, all rejoice together”. There is no room for self-glorification in the body of Christ because although we are individuals, we are part of one undivided whole. Can you imagine your teeth being upset because someone complements your hair? We don’t think like that (unless we are vain in the highest degree I suppose). If someone “honours” your hair, or your mind, or your typing ability, your whole person is honoured. So it is with the body of Christ.
So what is it that we should show honour for? Should we try to outdo each other in honoring each other’s intelligence, haircut, stick handling ability, or muffin baking skills? Not that it’s wrong to compliment someone’s muffins, but what our genuine love delights to recognize in each other is the power and the grace of God at work in the lives of others.
For example, Paul does this with Epaphroditus. In Phil. 2:29-30 he says “receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ…” This is something that requires thought and intentionality, but not only does it come from genuine love, it will also help to build genuine love because if you spend your time looking and thinking about God’s grace active in the lives of your brothers and sisters, as you see it, you’re love will grow.
In this way, as we honour the grace of God in the lives of those around us, we are really honouring Christ. Only God can produce in our lives anything worth honouring, so ultimately, he gets all the credit, all the praise, and all the honour, as we recognize only his accomplishments through the members of his body.
We must refuse to settle for a polite, fake-love in our churches. Only the genuine love that is produced by the Spirit of God can show this world that we belong to God. It is a love that is completely dependent on the love of God from start to finish, a love bought and paid for by the blood of Christ.
He loves us that we might be free from our self-centredness enough that we can abhor what is evil, while clinging to what is good, that we can have the genuine affection of family members for each other, in which the only one-up-man-ship is to see how much we can honour Christ by honouring his work in his people.
This is the kind of love that will show the world around us that there is something supernatural happening in our churches. This love is the true test that we are followers of Jesus. My dear brothers and sisters, let us love one another, for love is from God.