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October 2022 GPS

In the September GPS I began a brief series of meditations dealing with lessons we, as believers in Jesus, learned as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. The thread that binds the parts of the series together is the use of the phrase “one another” in the New Testament. The idea came to mind as I thought about how numbers of people remarked about how good it was to actually be back together again after being separated because of the quarantines. There are ways in which we can only minister effectively when we are with our brothers and sisters in person. Last month we looked at the admonitions to love one another which in a sense covers all the rest of our responsibilities. This month we will begin to look at some ways in which we are called to express that love, specifically in the attitudes we display.

We briefly saw one of them last month when we looked at Romans 12:10 and the commandment to love one another. The second half of that verse was: “Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10b, ESV) Another translation renders that phrase: “showing eagerness in honoring one another.” (Romans 12:10b, NET) One dictionary defines the verb as “take the lead in.” In any case, the idea is that honoring our brothers and sisters is a responsibility that we are to spend genuine effort to fulfill. We are not to think of it as a responsibility of minimal importance that we will fulfill if we have spare time and energy. As to what “honor” means, it might help to think of some synonyms for honor such as “respect, esteem.” The heart attitude that produces this honor is found in Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (ESV) Some translations read “better than” or “more important than” instead of “more significant than.” If we truly count others as more significant, important or better than ourselves, we will naturally treat them with respect, esteem or honor. That simply is the way we treat people we view as more important than we are. Part of our problem in this regard is that we are constantly encouraged to think of ourselves as more important than others and we find it easy and personally gratifying to do so.

Closely related to the responsibility to honor one another is the call to live in harmony with one another. Two passages exhort us to do that very thing. The first is found just a few verses below the previously noted verse in Romans 12: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in by your own sight.” (Romans 12:16, ESV) Other translations for “live in harmony” are “be of the same mind” and have a “spirit of unity.” The rest of the verse is an exposition of how that can be accomplished, and it is very similar to what we read in Philippians 2:3. It is by being humble. “Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in by your own sight.” Mutually harmonious living is only possible if we truly honor others more than ourselves. That attitude can only be ours as a result of the work of God in our lives which leads us to the second verse that speaks of living in harmony with one another. It is found later in the book of Romans where Paul prayed: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5–6, ESV) This kind of genuinely living in harmony with others only comes from God. It is insightful that Paul refers to two attributes of God that equip Him to grant this kind of harmony. He is the God of endurance and encouragement. He endures, perseveres, and bears up under a burden. He is also the God who encourages. He does not endure grudgingly. He endures while also encouraging us. As such, He is perfectly qualified to enable us to live in harmony with one another because the ability to live this way simply flows out of His character. He endures, and perseveres with us, and that very endurance is granted in a way that encourages us rather than causes us to give up. The verse goes on to point out that the example we are to follow in living in harmony with one another is Christ Jesus. Returning to Philippians 2, Paul explains how Christ was our example in His humility: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5–8, ESV)

The kinds of attitudes and actions seen in the verses above may be expressed to some degree via the internet but they can certainly be more effectively expressed by being physically in the presence of other people.