Defeating Pride by Showing Honor

“Outdo one another showing honor…”
(Rom 12:10)

The attitude of pride and arrogance is like a cancer in the body of Christ.  A prideful spirit focuses all the attention on itself, sucks up all the body’s resources, and if unchecked will, ultimately, spread throughout the body bringing death in its wake. That is the power of pride.

Pride comes in all shapes and sizes.  It is the arrogant and boastful person who likes to be the center of attention; never really listening to what others have to say, only waiting for another opportunity to speak.  It is there in the unyielding, undisciplined spirit that refuses to submit to the authority of God’s Word, and certainly not to the authority of the elders.  Pride is at the heart of the disaffected member who clings to the bitterness of past offenses and refuses to forgive and be forgiven.  It is pride that keeps us from confessing our sins that we may be reconciled, sharing our sorrows that we may be comforted, revealing our needs that we may be supported, and withholding our gifts so that others may be built up.

To be honest, pride is the sin that I struggle with most.  I think this is one of the great hazards of the ministry.  It’s difficult to stand in front of a congregation Sunday after Sunday, preaching the Word, and not letting the appreciation and praise from the congregation go right to your head. When the congregation is growing, and people are responding to the gospel, the temptation for the pastor is to think that this is his work, and to revel in the glory.

Add to that my disposition toward those activities that highlight individual achievement.  I love to run, and when I cross the finish line, that’s one more thing to boast about.  I love the theater, to stand front and center in the spotlight, leading the show and hearing the applause of the crowd.

All of these things feed the prideful spirit.  And yet, when you feed pride, it’s a lot like eating Chinese food.  You get filled up quickly, but an hour later you’re hungry for more.  There’s never enough praise, never enough attention, and the successes of others is a threat to your achievement.

So how do we root out this pernicious and perilous pride?  I believe the apostle Paul is addressing this in Romans 12:10 when he tells the Christian, “Outdo one another showing honor.”  It almost sounds like a sport.  Make a competition of honoring one another.  If you are going to excel at something, if you want to show off, then show your mad skills in honoring those around you.  If you want to stand in the spotlight, use your time there to bring glory to God and to honor others.

In order to truly honor others, you have to begin by humbling yourself.  Paul writes in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  Humbling yourself simply means having a right understanding of your own situation in relation to God and to others.

Here’s the humbling truth: Standing in the presence of God apart from Christ you are a wretched and wicked sinner in desperate need of salvation. It doesn’t matter how eloquent you might be, or what achievements you’ve had in work or in play – all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). And the Good News is just as humbling, for it is by “grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  There is no place in the body of Christ for pride, and if we are to boast, let us boast only in the cross of Christ our savior (Gal 6:14).

Once we have a true measure of ourselves in the light of God’s Word, and when we come to trust in His sovereign work for our eternal security, then we can have the confidence and strength to seek the honor of others before ourselves.  Pride is really nothing more than a defense against a perceived threat. When we rest secure in the promises of God, then pride serves no purpose, and we can honor God and one another as we are commanded.

Let us then root out this pride that so easily disrupts the Christian life, the arrogance that keeps us from being reconciled and united in the Lord.  Trusting in God’s grace, let us confess our sins, seek forgiveness, and preach the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ for all eternity. Resting secure in His work, may we outdo one another in showing honor.

SDG

With Brotherly Affection

“Love One Another with Brotherly Affection…”

Romans 12:10

Romans 12:9-21 gives us a picture of what the Christian character, and the Christian community, ought to look like. As I’ve written here over the past few weeks, this Christian life begins with a genuine and sincere love for God and for one another. In loving God, we grow to hate that which is evil, and cling to that which is good and true. Today we see how we are to treat one another.

Paul writes that we are to love one another with brotherly affection. Now while I love the ESV translation of scripture, there are times when the Greek really has more to offer. This love to which we are called to have for one another in the Greek text is really a combination of two words, philos – meaning brotherly love – and stergo – which means “natural affection. Essentially the word, which is only found in this passage in Romans, calls for a devotion or loving-kindness that is naturally found in the family – in parents for their children, or the love that binds brothers. In other words, the Christian is reminded to love the brethren in the faith as though they were brethren in blood. Matthew Henry wrote, this “kind affection puts us on to express ourselves both in word and action with the greatest courtesy and obligingness that may be.”

But let’s be honest. I grew up with an older brother and younger sister, and I know we didn’t always get along. I am raising four kids of my own, and not a day goes by that there is not some skirmish or battle between the brothers. They wouldn’t fight like this with their friends, but their brothers are free game.

Sadly, I see this in the church, too. I came to realize, very early in ministry, that often Christians will treat their brothers and sisters in Christ far worse than they would a total stranger. It’s in the slander and gossip that flows under the guise of a “prayer chain” and the cold and unforgiving glare in the “fellowship” time after worship. It’s in the dismissive attitude that one elder has for another, and in the deacon’s refusal to care for that member who’s always asking for help. The community of faith, which ought to be a witness to the forgiveness and transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, frequently clouds that witness in the way they treat one another.

How do we, then, maintain our witness as we love one another with brotherly affection?

Remember You are Brethren, Purchased by Christ.
I realize when I give bullet points like this, I usually start out with a “remember” point. There’s good reason for that. So much of what we’re supposed to do flows out of what’s already been done. What we do as the Christian community comes from who we are in Christ. It is because of what He has done, having purchased us by His blood (1 Pet 1:18-19), having broken down the dividing wall of hostility between us and made us one body in Him (Eph 2:14). Through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, we are made the children of God, )with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…” (Eph 4:5-6).

We are then, brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Let us “therefore, by the mercies of God” live with love toward our brethren. When we address one another, let us remember that we are addressing one for whom Christ died, one in whom the grace of God is working, one in whom the Spirit of God is sanctifying. When we speak to other Christians, we are addressing the child of the King of Heaven, a fellow heir and saint by grace through faith, a new creation through the Spirit and the Word.

Forgive as You Have Been Forgiven
If you live with someone long enough, you are bound to need forgiveness. Disagreements and arguments are normal in any family, and the family of faith is not immune. You will not find in Scripture any congregation that is above correction, for on this side of eternity the Church and it’s members is being made holy – we have not arrived.

And so we are “bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col 3:13). This, of course, reminds us that each of us has been forgiven, and the grace we have been shown in Jesus Christ is the same grace we are to extend to one another. This means seeking out those whom we have harmed and asking for forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24), and eagerly seeking to be reconciled with those who have brought us harm.

Rejoice in the Lord Always
In all things, as we relate to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord our overriding theme should be joy in the Christ. While we may not always see eye to eyes as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can agree to let the joy of Christ be our theme.

What is this joy? It is the joy that Christ came to make complete in our lives (John 15:11). It is the joy of knowing that we are reconciled with God and at peace with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the joy of having full assurance of salvation in Christ alone. It is the joy of being one with kindred spirits as the body of Christ. It is the joy of belonging to a family whose foundations run deeper and truer than flesh and blood. It is the joy of being “blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessings in heavenly places” (Eph 1:3). It is quite simply that as we are one with our brothers and sisters in Christ, as Calvin once wrote, “come what may, believers, having the Lord standing on their side, have sufficient ground of joy.”

SDG