Do You Take the Lead in Honoring Fellow Believers?
“In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead.”—ROM. 12:10.
1, 2. (a) What admonition does Paul give in his letter to the Romans? (b) What questions will we consider?
IN HIS letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul emphasizes the importance for us as Christians to show love within the congregation. He reminds us that our love should be “without hypocrisy.” He also mentions “brotherly love” and notes that such love should be shown with “tender affection.”—Rom. 12:9, 10a.
2 Of course, having brotherly love involves more than merely having warm feelings toward others. Such feelings need to be demonstrated by actions. After all, no one will know of our love and affection unless we give out samples, so to speak. Hence, Paul adds the admonition: “In showing honor to one another take the lead.” (Rom. 12:10b) What is involved in showing honor? Why is it important to take the lead in showing honor to fellow believers? How can we do so?
Respect and Honor
3. What meaning does the word “honor” carry in the original Bible languages?
3 The principal Hebrew word for “honor” literally means “heaviness.” A person who is honored is regarded as being weighty or as amounting to something. The same Hebrew word is also often translated in the Scriptures as “glory,” which further indicates the high regard shown to the one being honored. (Gen. 45:13) The Greek word translated “honor” in the Bible conveys the sense of esteem, value, preciousness. (Luke 14:10) Yes, those we honor are precious, valuable to us.
4, 5. How are showing honor and having respect related? Illustrate.
4 What is involved in honoring others? It starts with respect. In fact, the words “honor” and “respect” are often used together because they are closely related. Honor is the manifestation, or outward demonstration, of respect. In other words, respect refers primarily to how we view our brother while honor refers to how we treat our brother.
5 How can a Christian show genuine honor to fellow believers if he does not have heartfelt respect for them? (3 John 9, 10) Just as a plant can flourish and last only if it is rooted in good soil, so honor can be genuine and lasting only if it is rooted in heartfelt respect. Since insincere honor does not grow out of genuine respect, it will wither sooner or later. No wonder, therefore, that Paul preceded his admonition to show honor with the clear-cut statement: “Let your love be without hypocrisy.”—Rom. 12:9; read 1 Peter 1:22.
Honor Those Created “in the Likeness of God”
6, 7. Why do we need to have respect for others?
6 Since having heartfelt respect is a key to showing honor, we should never lose sight of the Scriptural reasons we have for respecting all our brothers. Let us, therefore, consider two of those reasons.
7 Unlike other creatures on earth, humans were created “in the likeness of God.” (Jas. 3:9) Hence, we possess such godly attributes as love, wisdom, and justice. Note what else we have received from our Creator. The psalmist states: “O Jehovah . . . , you whose dignity is recounted above the heavens! . . . You also proceeded to make [man] a little less than godlike ones, and with glory and splendor [“honour,” King James Version] you then crowned him.” (Ps. 8:1, 4, 5; 104:1) * Humans in general are crowned, or adorned, by God with a measure of dignity, glory, and honor. Thus, when we dignify another person, we are, in effect, acknowledging the Source of human dignity, Jehovah. Now, if we have valid reasons for showing respect to people in general, how much more ought we to have respect for fellow believers!—John 3:16; Gal. 6:10.
Members of One Family
8, 9. What reason for having respect for fellow believers does Paul mention?
8 Another reason why we respect one another is mentioned by Paul. Just before he gives the admonition to show honor, he states: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another.” The Greek expression translated “tender affection” refers to the strong bond that unites a loving and mutually supportive family. Thus, by using that expression, Paul emphasizes that relationships in the congregation should be as strong and as warm as in a close-knit family. (Rom. 12:5) Moreover, keep in mind that Paul wrote those words to anointed Christians, all of whom had been adopted as children by the same Father, Jehovah. So in a very significant sense, they were a close family. Hence, anointed Christians in Paul’s day truly had a powerful reason for respecting one another. The same holds true for anointed ones today.
9 What about those who are of the “other sheep”? (John 10:16) Although they have not yet been adopted as God’s children, they can appropriately call one another brother and sister because they form one united worldwide Christian family. (1 Pet. 2:17; 5:9) Thus, if those of the other sheep fully appreciate what they are saying when using the terms “brother” or “sister,” then they too have a powerful reason for having heartfelt respect for their fellow believers.—Read 1 Peter 3:8.
Why So Important?
10, 11. Why is having respect and showing honor so important?
10 Why is having respect and showing honor so important? For this reason: By showing honor to our brothers and sisters, we greatly contribute to the well-being and unity of the entire congregation.
11 Of course, we realize that having a close relationship with Jehovah and receiving the support of his spirit are the most powerful sources of strength that we have as true Christians. (Ps. 36:7; John 14:26) At the same time, when fellow believers show that they appreciate us, we are encouraged. (Prov. 25:11) We feel uplifted by a sincere expression of appreciation and respect. It gives us added strength to continue walking with joy and determination on the road to life. You have no doubt experienced such feelings yourself.
12. How can each of us contribute to a warm, loving atmosphere in the congregation?
12 Now, since Jehovah knows our inborn need for receiving respect, through his Word he properly urges us to “be eager to show respect for one another.” (Rom. 12:10, Today’s English Version; read Matthew 7:12.) All Christians who take that timeless counsel to heart contribute to an atmosphere of warmth and love within the Christian brotherhood. Hence, we do well to pause and ask ourselves, ‘When was the last time that I expressed through words and actions my heartfelt respect for a brother or sister in the congregation?’—Rom. 13:8.
A Specific Assignment for All
13. (a) Who should take the lead in showing honor? (b) What do Paul’s words found at Romans 1:7 indicate?
13 Who should take the lead in showing honor? In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul describes Christian elders as “those who are taking the lead among you.” (Heb. 13:17) True, elders take the lead in numerous activities. Still, as shepherds of the flock, they surely need to take the lead in honoring fellow believers—including fellow elders. For instance, when elders meet to consider the spiritual needs of the congregation, they honor one another by carefully listening to the comments made by any of their fellow elders. Further, they show honor by taking into consideration the views and expressions of all the elders when making a decision. (Acts 15:6-15) We should remember, though, that Paul’s letter to the Romans was directed not only to the elders but to the entire congregation. (Rom. 1:7) Thus, by extension, the admonition to take the lead in showing honor applies to all of us today.
14. (a) Illustrate the difference between showing honor and taking the lead in showing honor. (b) What question might we ask ourselves?
14 Note also this aspect of Paul’s counsel. He urged his fellow believers in Rome not merely to show honor but to take the lead in showing honor. Why does that make a difference? Think of this example. Would a teacher urge a group of literate students to learn to read? No. They already know how to read. Instead, the teacher would want to help the students to read better. Similarly, having love for one another, which moves us to show honor, is already the identifying mark of true Christians. (John 13:35) However, just as literate students can make further progress by improving their reading skills, so we can make further progress by taking the lead in showing honor. (1 Thess. 4:9, 10) That specific assignment is given to each one of us. We might ask ourselves, ‘Am I doing that—taking the initiative in honoring others in the congregation?’
Honor “the Lowly Ones”
15, 16. (a) When showing honor, whom should we not overlook, and why? (b) What may reveal that we have heartfelt respect for all our brothers and sisters?
15 When showing honor, whom in the congregation should we not overlook? God’s Word states: “He that is showing favor to the lowly one is lending to Jehovah, and his treatment He will repay to him.” (Prov. 19:17) How should the principle found in those words affect us as we endeavor to take the lead in showing honor?
16 You will agree that most people manage to show honor to their superiors, but these same people may treat those whom they consider to be their inferiors with little or no respect. However, Jehovah is not like that. He states: “Those honoring me I shall honor.” (1 Sam. 2:30; Ps. 113:5-7) Jehovah shows honor to all those who serve and honor him. He does not ignore “the lowly ones.” (Read Isaiah 57:15; 2 Chron. 16:9) Of course, we wish to imitate Jehovah. Thus, if we want to measure how we fare in showing genuine honor, we do well to ask ourselves, ‘How do I treat those who have no prominent, or responsible, position in the congregation?’ (John 13:14, 15) The answer to that question reveals much about the degree of heartfelt respect we have for others.—Read Philippians 2:3, 4.
Showing Honor by Giving of Our Time
17. What is a major way in which we can take the lead in showing honor, and why is that so?
17 What is a major way in which we can take the lead in showing honor to all in the congregation? By giving others of our time. Why is that so? As Christians, we live busy lives, and carrying out our numerous important congregation activities takes much of our time. Not surprisingly, therefore, we view time as precious. We realize, too, that we should not demand that our brothers and sisters give us inordinate amounts of their time. Likewise, we appreciate it when others in the congregation understand that they should not be demanding when it comes to asking us for our time.
18. As shown by the picture on page 18, how might we indicate our willingness to give some time to fellow believers?
18 Nonetheless, we also recognize (especially those of us who serve as shepherds in the congregation) that our willingness to interrupt our activities in order to give some time to fellow believers demonstrates that we have respect for them. In what way? By dropping our activities to give some time to our brothers, we say to them, in effect, ‘You are so valuable in my eyes that it is more important to me to spend some time with you than to continue what I am doing.’ (Mark 6:30-34) The opposite is also true. If we are reluctant to stop our activities so as to give some time to our brother, we may make him feel that he is of little value to us. Of course, it is understood that there are times when an urgent matter cannot be interrupted. Still, our willingness—or our reluctance—to give some of our time to others does reveal much about the depth of respect we have in our heart for our brothers and sisters.—1 Cor. 10:24.
Be Determined to Take the Lead
19. In what way, other than giving of our time, can we show honor to fellow believers?
19 There are other important ways in which we can show honor to fellow believers. For instance, when giving them of our time, we should also give them our attention. Again, Jehovah sets the example. The psalmist David states: “The eyes of Jehovah are toward the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their cry for help.” (Ps. 34:15) We strive to imitate Jehovah by turning our eyes and ears—our full attention—toward our brothers, especially those who approach us for help. By doing so, we show them honor.
20. What reminders about showing honor do we want to keep in mind?
20 As we have considered, we want to keep clearly in mind why we should have heartfelt respect for fellow believers. Further, we look for opportunities to be the first in expressing honor to all, including lowly ones. By taking these steps, we will strengthen the bond of brotherly love and unity in the congregation. Therefore, let all of us continue not only to show honor but especially to take the lead in showing honor to one another. Are you determined to do just that?
Do You Recall?
• How are honor and respect related?
• What reasons do we have for honoring our fellow believers?
• Why is it important to show honor to one another?
• In what ways can we show honor to fellow believers?
[Picture on page 18]
How can we show honor to fellow believers?