Director of Emerging Leadership
World Methodist Evangelism
Words are a funny thing. Not just words on their own, but the ways we choose to use words and give meaning to them. For instance: a young lady meets a young man and they begin going out on dates. Then they become “exclusive.” Pretty soon the pressure begins to build as the young lady and the young man try to figure out exactly how they feel about one another. It’s a big decision to use that 4 letter “L” word to describe how they feel. “What if he doesn’t feel the same way?”- she worries. Can you picture the scene??
Here’s where it becomes interesting: The same word causing all this drama and dilemma, LOVE, is also being used to describe one’s feelings towards anything and everything. That same girl facing her dilemma is probably saying things like “i LOVE chocolate!”, “I love that TV show,” or even “I LOVE my shoes!”. It’s just one word, but two completely different meanings. It can be confusing!
There are also those words that are suddenly considered “Bad Words”. Two of my favorites that keep coming up in the Bible are Submission & Humility. These two have have become “bad words” in our culture. Instead of being told to humble ourselves, we are told to assert ourselves and not to care about what others think of us. Instead of being told to submit to one another, we are told to be independent, to “just do it.” Submission and humility have become things of the past. You know, back when we weren’t “free” to be all we dream to be!
The apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:10 are great because they help us get around our negative word bias. Instead of telling us to simply submit and humble ourselves, he instead says “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another”. Now that sounds different, doesn’t it? Another version says “Honor… above yourselves”. Suddenly it makes a bit more sense because we’re not biased towards the word. God asks us to GIVE PREFERENCE to one another, and to HONOR one another. Because the truth is this:
The outcomes of our daily interactions rely primarily on our willingness to GIVE PREFERENCE to each other.
Stop and think about that for a minute. Think about situations you’ve been through at work, at home, in your community, etc. Families win when husband and wife act in ways that GIVE PREFERENCE to each other. Friendships last when friends decide to HONOR EACH OTHER ABOVE THEMSELVES. Our communities win when Godly people decide to GIVE PREFERENCE to their neighbors.
Giving preference to one another starts when we begin to ask questions like “Whose well being am I concerned about?” or “Who wins if I get my way?” It’s very simple, and yet so difficult at times!
Giving preference may even seem unnatural to you. But here’s why it matters:
1- We were made to submit to one another:
Genesis 1:26 says “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”. Typically, when we read this we think of individual attributes such as intelligent, loving, kind, honorable, etc. While it is perfectly fine to read it that way, it’s also incomplete. The other way to read this is that man and woman, both of them, together, would be like “US,” the triune God. It’s a subtle change, but it helps us understand that we were made to live together in mutual submission, just as God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, giving preference to one another. If it works for God, it’ll probably work for us!
2- Jesus himself did it:
Jesus modeled this kind of relationship in two different ways. First, He submitted to the Father saying things like “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38) Jesus submits to the Father even to death. Secondly, Jesus GIVES PREFERENCE to us! Phillipians 2:6-8 says this: [Christ]… “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
What would you have done if you were Jesus, and you came down from heaven to this mess?! We surely didn’t deserve what Jesus did for us. He chose to GIVE PREFERENCE to the Father and to us.
Hopefully by now you’re at least tickled by the idea of GIVING PREFERENCE to one another. But here’s the actual golden nugget in all of this:
In order for you to be able to GIVE PREFERENCE to others around you,
you must first GIVE PREFERENCE to Jesus!
We can never truly live in a way that honors others above ourselves if we don’t first give our lives to Jesus, depending on Him to fulfill all of our deepest needs. In Him we find the freedom to GIVE PREFERENCE to one another.
In a world of individualism, selfishness, and self-promotion, people are hungry for a different way of being. Giving preference to Jesus and to one another changes the tone of our relationships, our conversations, and ultimately our witness to the world.