Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.—Romans 12:10
The trouble with the Bible is that its message is difficult, recurring, and consistent—love others, love others, love others, it harps.
And the obvious problem—I prefer to love myself.
But here we have it again, in this practical storehouse that is Romans 12: “Be devoted to one another in love.” And as if that part isn’t tough enough, the Bible then takes it a step further than the modern self-help tweet of the day, “Honor one another above yourselves!”
So not only am I supposed to be kind to others, but I’m supposed to value others MORE than I value myself! This just isn’t the way of the world.
This weekend, I visited my wife’s family, and they have a small house on a diminutive lake. Also, they’ve had a steady decline in lake toys. A few summers ago, their speed boat broke. Last summer, the jet ski finally jumped its last wake. And on this weekend, the last of their lake motors died, as their pontoon boat engine went caput within five minutes of our arrival. That left us with only a bird-dropping laden old paddle boat at our disposal over the long Memorial Day Weekend.
As a reader, I was prepared to be landlocked, as I had brought several books I had been meaning to get to, but my wife, less bookish than me, had only one book—an old dusty book on an old dusty shelf: How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carnegie’s classic sales-minded book classically sums up the modern take of love—we attempt to win friends through small kindnesses SO we can gain influence over them. This isn’t the stuff of the Good Samaritan, but rather the inclination to become the Good Samaritan if enough cameras are running and our act might be turned into some sort of revenue stream. That book echoes our hearts with the resounding question: What’s in it for me?
But the Bible takes the me out of things altogether. It forfeits the self for the self of others. I am to honor others ABOVE myself. Another translation commands, “Outdo one another in love.”
Is that my mindset?
Do I love others with all that I have without wondering, “What’s in it for me?”
Do I take myself off the pedestal so someone else can be on it?
Romans 12:10 is a high calling that paradoxically reminds one to become low.
To me, it conjures up the old-timey images of the gentleman out of a date with some fair damsel. They come to a puddle in the road, and what does the throwback Casanova do? He lays out his fine dress jacket over the puddle and allows his date to walk on it, avoiding the water. My modern sensibilities rail against such an act of utter tomfoolery. “Why would you ruin your coat?” I roll my lovelorn eyes.
The Bible looks on, though, and sees not a foolish end in that action, but a modest start. A book whose message culminates in a man having his coat stripped off of him to assume the beating, scorn, and death for another, is not one of paltry standards.
We are to lay our coats and our very selves down to honor those around us—to keep them dry by showering them with love.