Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another – Romans 12:10
The true mark of genuine love is when you prefer another over yourself.
In Romans chapter 12, Paul goes through a list of general instructions for us to follow as Christians, giving us a clear picture of what our Christian life should look like. One of those instructions is for us to be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love. How to do that is made clear in the rest of the sentence: in honor giving preference to one another.
Preference is the action word here. When you prefer something over another thing, it means that you make it your first choice. The Greek of the word means to ‘go before.’ So it quite literally means to let another person get something or do something ahead of yourself.
This is the way we are to act towards other people in our lives, especially our brothers and sisters. Our love for them should be as such that, in everything, we pick them first. We let them pick the first slice, if you will.
Some people may think this is an easy thing, but it is not. It may be easy for adults to do when it comes to something small, like who gets the last slice of pizza, but what if it is something bigger? What if, for example, the dream house you’ve been eyeing for a long time to buy, is also being eyed by someone else? What if you are all prepared to buy it, but so are they? Would it be easy for you to give away your chance to buy this house to someone else, knowing it would most likely never be yours? It probably would not be easy. But if you practiced this verse in that situation, you would let them buy the house, and that would be preferring others over yourself.
Jesus is the ultimate example of one that preferred others over Himself. He owed no one anything in any way, yet out of love He thought of us over Himself. He gave up His high place of majesty to be a servant. He gave up honor and respect to be dispised by men. He gave up life for death – all for us.
Another great example of this out of the bible is Jonathan, King Saul’s son. In the days when kings and heirs of kings would kill every opponent so they could assure themselves of power, Jonathan preferred David to be king over himself. Why? Why would any normal human being pick someone else to be king over himself, especially when the place of king rightfully belonged to him?? Jonathan’s dad was the king, and he was the heir. Naturally speaking, he would have been king. But Jonathan knew God had rejected his father as king, and had selected David instead. And he was ok with that, because he loved David. Look at Jonathan’s heart in this passage:
And he (Jonathan) said to him (David), “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” – 1 Samuel 23:17
What normal person would say that? Jonathan was no normal person. Unlike his father, he was an extraordinary person. He was a great example of the kind of people we should be. We are not called to be mere men. We are called to be a peculiar people:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; – 1 Peter 2:9
Look at the adjectives that are used in this passage to describe the kind of people we are to be: chosen, royal, holy, special. Different and distinct is what we are to be. And when we prefer others over our own self, we are certianly different then the world.
Think about the philosophies of the world. A recent fad word that has been circulating is the acronym YOLO. It means You Only Live Once. Different people, I’m sure, have their different take on what that means, but the overwhelming idea is that you’d better live it up now, and get all you can, because now’s your only chance. And in a dog-eat-dog world, that means you take whatever you can, when you can, even if it means stepping over someone else to get it.
But a Christians’ perspective should be different. You may only live once, but the person next to you will only live once, as well. What makes you better than they? And the truth is that even though we only live on this earth once, we are looking for a better country. We are looking for a city whose builder and maker is God. In this world we are pilgrims. We are traveling through this world as foreigners. We may use this world, but we may not abuse it, for the world is passing away. All the YOLOers will pass away with it, but those who do the will of the Father will live forever.
Remember that the ‘first will be last, and the last will be first.’ Those who throw their hand out quickly to grab the things of this world before anyone else can, will find themselves spiritually bankrupt. But those who ‘esteem others as better than themselves’ will find that God will promote them in every way. Its like the man climbing the pole verses the man kneeling in an elevator. The one struggles to get to the top, only to find a slippery slope downward, whereas the other rests as he is lifted higher and higher, and that with no struggle of his own.