Giving Preference to One Another
God's nature is such that He shows no partiality (Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and we are to reflect His nature. Scripture is quite clear that as Christians we must show no partiality either (1 Timothy, 5:21; James 2:1,9). We are all sinners, regardless of wealth or social standing. God expects us to live this truth by treating each other, ironically enough, as better than ourselves. In other words, when we show no partiality, we seek to make everyone and everyone else's interests more important than our own.
This is exactly what Paul writes in Romans 12:10: 'Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.' The NRSV says 'outdo one another in showing honor.' Such an attitude not only takes away the fleshly urge to pick favorites, but it also takes away a selfish desire to be some sort of 'Lone Christian'.
We have been given the local church as a blessing. We are meant to be an active participant in it. While the church is there to benefit us, when we approach it with that expectation we miss the entire point. It will serve us when other Christians are doing the same thing we are supposed to be doing -- 'outdoing one another in showing honor'. We don't do that by trying to be an adjunct member of a church: slipping in when we decide to, hurling criticisms when something doesn't suit us and choosing to get angry when for some strange reason everyone doesn't fall all over themselves to be kind to us. Every Christian must learn the truth that we are much easier to love when we are to some degree loveable. If some effort is made to include these 'Lone Christians', a stonewall is often the reaction. It's easier to criticize from afar than to be involved in the real work of building a congregation.
But when Paul writes, 'Do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others' (Philippians 2:3-4), he is telling us how to 'be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose' (vs. 2). These things are built not only through Bible study, but also through things like hospitality, even staying after services to chat.
Unless the Christians in a church actually like each other (and they have to know one another to like each other), they will never exhibit the type of unity of purpose God intends. They will be quick to hurl accusations and suspect impure motives when trouble does arise. And trouble will most assuredly arise if the congregation is not striving to be one, and each member is not striving to 'outdo one another in showing honor'.
- by Alan Cornett