Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
— Romans 10:9–10
Honor is not something our culture necessarily holds in high regard. In fact, dishonor is sometimes more glorified. We (including myself) often find entertainment in the “roasting” of others or the tearing down of others with our words (even if it’s in a joking manner). For whatever reason, it is sometimes easier to make a joke at someone’s expense than to build them up with our words or actions.
Paul says we are to abhor this practice and let our love (through word and deed) be genuine and to love one another with brotherly affection. What this text does not say is to love another with brotherly affection only when it is called for or deserved. If others loved me only when I deserved it, I don’t think I would receive love very often. If Jesus loved me according to the things that I deserve, I would still be dead in my sins. But praise be to him that, even when I was dead in my sins and trespasses, God made me alive together with Christ by his grace (Ephesians 2:4–5). Even when I had nothing to offer to him, he laid his life down for me so that in Scripture, whatever it says about Christ can be said about me. What a gift that is! In the same way, we should extend honor and love even to those we don’t think are deserving.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s easier said than done, Castle. You don’t know my wife. You don’t know my coworkers. They are horrible, despicable people. I just find it really difficult to show love and honor to these people.
Here’s the plain truth: outside of Christ, we are also sick, depraved people in need of love and grace from a redeeming God. Jesus laid his life down for us, even when we could offer him nothing. This is the greatest form of love and honor (John 15:13). If we are to model Christ and be conformed to his image, we should be drawn in by the Holy Spirit to treat others in a similar manner. And if you are still thinking that this is easier said than done, I would remind you of what Paul says in Romans 8:
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
— Romans 8:11
The same power that raised Christ from the dead now resides in those who follow and believe in him. This is great news in our struggle against the flesh. We have the power to show love and honor to those who aren’t the easiest to love and show honor to. Ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart. Start with baby steps. Maybe it’s initiating a conversation, holding a door open, speaking an encouraging word, or going out of your way to make someone a priority. Showing love and honor to those who maybe aren’t worthy of it is difficult or maybe even impossible without the help of the Spirit, but with him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
And once we lead out and start on the journey of showing honor, it becomes more likely that the other person’s heart will be softened and will start reciprocating that honor in return. And then we get to experience the life-giving practice of “outdoing one another in honor.” All made possible by the Holy Spirit to bring about the abundant life that is found only in Christ.