There is this list of things called "Rules for Christian Living" which appears in the twelfth chapter of Romans. Almost all of them are "relational" in one form or another, but as we look into those over the next couple of days, let's seek to really avoid using them as a "checklist" of Christian behavior and more of a little bit of insight into how God created us to interact with him and each other. The ideas conveyed in this chapter are not just "rules" we check-off each day and then go around thinking "I already did that today". They are ways of living "outside" of our selfishness - the tendency we had before we said "yes" to Christ which kept us totally self-directed in our focus. We are going to look at these in segments, not as a long "laundry list", but as building upon each other. The first is pretty straight-forward: Be sincere in your love for others. Sincerity is this idea of being free of hypocrisy. If you have ever caught yourself saying one thing, but thinking another, you might be dealing with this thing called hypocrisy - the tendency to be in-genuine or unreal. Neither of these traits are what God wants for us in relationships - first with him, then with others. He strives for this idea of being genuine - a good place for us to start in our examination of the "Rules for Christian Living".
Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. (Romans 12:9-10 CEV)
The first desire expressed is for us to be genuine in our love for each other. How we reveal this is through the next couple of examples: hating evil, holding tight to what is good, treating one another as brothers and sisters, and giving honor to each other more than we focus on seeking honor for ourselves. As we look at these, we find a "protectiveness" of the relationship and guarding against those things which hinder the depth and closeness of relationship. Nothing will shut a relationship down quicker than for anger, malice, or wickedness to gain an inroad into the midst of it. We are to do more than just be "intolerant" of these things - we are to be so vigilant to guard against them that we just WON'T allow them to have an inroad. When anger enters, we are to immediately stop, take notice of what is being said or demonstrated in each other's actions, and then bring reconciliation immediately. This is the principle of not letting the sun go down on our anger. Just think of how much different our relationships would be if we were to begin to operate in this framework! When ill-intent is evident, conflict will arise. As with anger, there is to be an increasing "vigilance" to avoid all manner of ill-intent.
The opposite is true in the relationship - we are to really run after the things which produce good outcomes in the relationship. Those things which increase our moral foundation are probably what our writer has in mind here. Whenever we build one another up in the faith, we are fulfilling this "rule" of living. This leads to us loving each other as we'd love a brother or sister. If you don't particularly enjoy being around your siblings, this one might be hard to grasp! The idea is one of "blood relation" - learning to see each other as belonging to the same "bloodline". Those who are part of the family of God share a similar "heritage" as we do. As such, we are to enter into companionable relationship with those in this journey of faith. It means we need each other! We cannot walk it alone. We actually benefit from the closeness of seeing another walk out their faith - in the daily, rubber meets the road kind of way. If we were to really look at what our writer is saying here, we find he is reminding us of being cognizant of those who are "partners" with us in this walk. We don't always "get along" well, but we do grow from the interactions and see love become the driving force which binds us together.
The last reminder is to honor one another more than we do ourselves. This is a tough one, as you might imagine, because each of us tends to focus on self quicker than we focus on others. Honor might mean a few things here, such as giving distinction to another which is unique and calls out how it is we appreciate the other individual. If we see something in them which is a complimentary skill or trait to what we possess, this might be something we "honor" in them. It might also mean we give some merit to another individual which they wouldn't receive otherwise. I think there are a whole lot of people today just walking around looking for someone to give them some merit - because their lives have been filled with all kinds of things labeled as "demerits"! I don't know where the "demerits" came from, or even if they were deserved, but I do know many individuals focus on those "negative" things they have been told or come to believe about themselves. When we are in relationship with each other, we have this unique ability to focus on either side of the column, so to speak. The choice to focus on those things which are of "merit" in a person's life is something we need to learn to do more often! Just sayin!