The Human Contest.
The human contest in perhaps our most perplexing life endeavor. Something in us needs the lift of being bigger, better, beyond the limits of the guy next door. Perhaps it's the reason there are 59 one another passages in the New Testament, this human contest that takes so much of our energy and time. It certainly is a significant faith challenge, the personal discipline to elevate others above self. With little doubt it is among our most critical daily challenges. Yes, our relationship with the Heavenly Father extends to every life arena. It is most pressing, however, in how we interact with the other humans who vie with us in this on-going human contest.
The Apostle Paul wrote much about our relationship with other humans. One of those texts captured my attention this morning because of the way it confronts me with self. At the conclusion of Romans 12:10, Paul penned this: "Outdo one another in showing honor". He had already noted that believers must "Love one another with brotherly affection". Treating the guy next door like a brother may be the opening round of this competition. Especially when our response to that neighbor is usually measured by how he treats me. You know, we humans like to balance the scales, give as it is given. It's what Jesus taught when he said, " Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6: 38, ESV). Be nice to me, and I'll be nice to you is our thing.
Then again. Paul wrote that we should go overboard in honoring others. Its the same Greek word Jesus used when he told his followers to honor their fathers and mothers. It is a term that means to fix the value of something, to revere or venerate someone beyond self. The Apostle Paul's command is that every believer should place great value on the other people in our lives and that we should do so in a manner greater than the people around us. And, that seems an insurmountable task for us score keeping humans. In our calculations that other person may not deserve my words or thoughts or actions of honor. That other person may be my most deplorable life connection.
Oops. Then there is grace. The Apostle Paul also wrote, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4: 32, ESV). Surely honoring others involves graciously overlooking their actions toward us. Outdoing each other in this regard is the trait that clarifies this honor thing. We can honor them as Christ honors us. Personal faith celebrates God's grace and the work of Christ is shifting our human nature so we can belong to him. Should this grace not also be extended to the people around us, troubling as they may be?
This human contest places us at odds with many people. Faith should direct us above the limitations of our human nature, and we should outdo one another is showing honor. If there's going to be a contest with others, let it be that we outdo one another in showing honor.