Excel In Showing Honor

>> Friday, July 01, 2011

Romans 12 provides us with one of scripture’s clearest pictures of practical Christ-like living. We see scripture’s exhortation to live a life marked with action. I believe a healthy understanding and practice of these things help us “put to death” the old self and actively “put on” the new self, helps us in the practice of “setting our minds on things above”, helps our transformation by the “renewing of our minds”, helps us to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus”.

Here is what scripture teaches us in Romans 12:9-13:
• Allow love to be genuine
• Utterly detest evil and hold on to what is good
• Love the body with brotherly affection
• Excel in showing honor
• Activate zeal and show intensity in spirit in service to God
• Rejoice in hope, patient in tribulation, constant in prayer
• Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek opportunities for hospitality

To “outdo one another in showing honor” means that we prefer to honor rather than to be honored. Perhaps above any other definition of this command, is the distinction that excellence in showing honor, preference in showing honor, insistence on showing honor is the perfected definition of living a life of true humility.

Humility is perhaps one of the most misunderstood elements of the Christian life. I love the definition afforded the word humility by Sir William Temple, archbishop of Canterbury,

"Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all."

The reality is that we are unable to do this aside from divine intervention on our lives. We must experience the supernatural work of regeneration – becoming a new creation. It is the evidence that we exist by, and have within us, the very nature of God. Salvation alone does not impute humility in our lives, we must desire to seek it from God and ask Him to mold us into a person who prefers to show honor.

The great thing about this understanding of humility as our preference to honor others above ourselves is found in the very root of the words of scripture. I don’t reference the greek in my posts often because it leads me down a path I can’t navigate on my own, but for this short statement let’s look at the greek for this scripture. This portion “excel in showing honor” or “outdo one another in showing honor” is found as a three word sentence in the greek – “timē allēlous proēgoumenoi ”.

Here goes my limited understanding of the greek:
  • The word timē is the noun meaning “honor; a price placed on something bought based on its value”

  • The word allēlous is a reciprocal pronoun meaning “of one another”, from a root meaning “mutually together”

  • The word proēgoumenoi is the verb meaning “I lead onward by example with preference” from the root words pro meaning “placed in front; before” and hégeomai meaning “I lead with thinking and in consideration”.

What I love about this little study into the greek origin of this phrase is the implication that when we “give preference” to each other in honor, we are doing so in a reciprocal, mutual, effort of leadership. We thoughtfully and in consideration of others, lead in the reciprocating effort of placing rank and value on others. This is so good, especially within the context of this scripture. As we saw in the prior post of this series, our loving with brotherly affection is all about recognition and distinction that we as believers are a family of gospel community. And while our efforts to be honoring to others is not exclusive to the family of believers but should reach out to all we encounter, we should make it a point to lead, as believers among believers, in the effort of valuing others above ourselves.

Let us learn to walk humbly, making it our aim to lead in the effort of showing and placing value on others.  Why is this important?

First, it displays to God the glory of Christ. As we elevate others with honor, we are painting a self-portrait of Christ with our lives and offering it back to God as a gift. We are recognizing the honor and glory due God based on His rank as God and King.  (Note that this greek word for honor “timē” is the same word used eight times in Revelation in reference to showing all glory and honor to God who sits on the throne.)
Secondly, it affirms within the gospel community that we are indeed family. We carry the traits of our honorable Father and King.
Thirdly, it affirms to the world that the nature of God is within us. We are a new creation and our lives are a living sacrificial testament to the greatness and magnitude and merciful love of God.

When we do this we see who God is and who we are in reference to Him and we see who others are and value them in reference to what they mean to God. This endears others to God and makes them want to know and experience Him more intimately.

This is our calling, it is the root of who we are to be in Christ. It’s not just about making the world a better place to live, nor is it about bettering our relationship with others or delivering social justice. It’s our calling in regards to the Kingdom for which we are royal ambassadors, sons of the King, and joint-heirs of the Kingdom.

We must ask God to make us more prone to excellence in showing honor, excellence in living in proper humility, excellence in showing preference to others, and excellence in making preference in the value of others a mark of the Christian walk. It is an essential badge of Christ-like living.

Better yet – if we are faithful to do it well – we honor our Father in heaven and point others to Him.

aiming to be a leader in humility,


:: Other posts in this series on "Christ-Likeness" from Romans 12 ::


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