Romans 12:10 - "In honor [give] preference to one another"
Philippians 2:5-8 describes Christ's profound act of preferring us. He voluntarily left the comforts of Heaven and came to Earth to meet our most pressing need, "becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." Verse 5 directs us to do the same: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." He preferred us, so we should prefer one another. Simple said, we should think of others and put them first.
Preferring others requires that we "die to self"; we'll need to set aside our personal preferences, desires, and plans in order to prioritize the preferences of others. Dying to self is one of the most challenging concepts for Christians. Yielding to other people's wants and needs, however, is the mark of a mature Christian.
Here are some practical ways you can become better at preferring others:
1) Take the initiative to discover other people's needs, desires, and preferences.
2) Learn to prefer others in various ways.
3) Discover other people's gifts and create opportunities in which they can be used.
4) Focus on others instead of on yourself.
5) Preferring others will impact our conversations.
My mother was a simple, godly woman who had a deep-rooted faith in God and his Word. She didn’t understand Greek or Hebrew and would graciously avoid conversations involving higher criticism or theological debate, but she lived the gospel and always focused on the needs of others. One particular incident from her life highlighted her life-long desire to put others first. Her pastor told us this story at her funeral.
Several days before mom died, her pastor visited her in the hospital. Her health had deteriorated such that she only weighed seventy-seven pounds. She was being fed intravenously because her jaw was nearly immobile. When Mom heard the hospital door swing open and recognized her visitor as her pastor, she tried to speak to him. Attempting to understand what she was saying, the pastor bent over her bed, putting his ear just inches away from Mom’s mouth. She was asking, “Have you had dinner yet?”
That was “vintage Mom.” Though wasting away herself, she was concerned that her minister might not have eaten dinner. In her heart, I suppose she was prepared to cook him a feast. To her dying breath, she preferred others.
Romans 15:7 - "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you"
Why are we prejudiced? Race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, gender, past history or present circumstances...Why do we judge, and reject others?
Jesus’ ministry was predicated upon accepting people. He erased the artificial boundaries of culture and status, looked beyond people’s sin, and accepted them. He touched lepers, ate with sinners, visited the homes of tax collectors, and washed the feet of the betrayer.
The apostle Paul told the church at Rome to “accept one another just as Christ has accepted you” (Romans 15:7). Paul, too, had been touched deeply by God’s acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15–16).
Two fundamental aspects of human nature underscore the importance of accepting others.
- All humans are similar: Because we are all created in the image of God, every person has intrinsic value.
- All humans are unique: Because God created each of us, every person is “one of a kind.”
These truths also provide practical insights into how we are to accept others. When we truly accept others, our attitude will be:
- I willingly accept you because you are a human being.
- I acknowledge, affirm and delight in the fact that you are unique.
- I willingly receive you and love you even though you are different from me.
- I will not neglect ministering any and all of the One Anothers to you.
- Even as I get to know you on a deep level, I will not stop accepting you.
- I accept you for who you are: I won't try to change you.
I Corinthians 11:33 - "Wait for each other."
While writing this book, I continually asked the Lord to help me experience the truths of the One Anothers and to understand each of them in a deeper way than I had before. I vividly remember the day he taught me about Wait for One Another.
I took a small group of friends to see the sights and sounds of New York City. There’s a lot to see in the big apple, so each day’s itinerary was well orchestrated and full. Walking is the preferred mode of transportation there if you’re traveling fewer than twenty blocks. So on the first day we walked from one place to the next, maintaining a quick pace as we went.
One member of our group, an older lady, had trouble keeping the pace, so she and her daughter would inevitably lag behind the group and we would need to stop and wait for them to catch up. I confess I became irritated at the constant delays, thinking, This isn’t fair. We have a lot to see and do, and one slow person should not limit the pace of the entire group.
|Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP Photo|
The lady and her daughter became exasperated by the pressure to keep up the group’s pace. She finally said, “Don, we just can’t keep up. you’re going too fast. Just go on without us.” Immediately, I sensed that I had violated the Lord’s directive to Wait for One Another, so I slowed down, and for the rest of the trip we adopted her pace.
When we Wait for One Another, we relinquish our own pace, agenda and strengths and yield to others. And in our struggle to Wait for One Another, we will encounter an ugly vice called impatience. The opposite of impatience is, of course, patience, which is a godly virtue.
• Ephesians 4:2 simply says, “Be patient.”
• First Corinthians 13:4 uses the word to help define what love is – “Love is patient.”
• Galatians 5:22 states that patience is a fruit of the Spirit; when he controls our lives, we will be patient.
• First Thessalonians 5:14 teaches that this grace gift is to be exercised toward all, “Be patient with everyone.” We can’t pick and choose with whom we will be patient.
As you enter this holiday season with family and friends, you may be called upon more than once to wait on others - physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually.
James 5:16 - "...pray for each other..."
December 14, 2012. An unbelievable tragedy struck our nation with the massacre of 27 lives in Newtown, Connecticut.
Perhaps the best and only One Another we can use to minister to those affected by this tragedy is to Pray For those families and friends of the children and adults that were lost.
|Brynn Gingras of NBC New York: Newtown firefighters lowering the town flag|
Here are some practical ways you can pray for them and for those in your life that need prayer:
1. Pray often. "We constantly pray for you" (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
2. Designate a specific time and place to pray for others. "Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God" (Luke 6:12).
3. Pray for people "on the spot." "When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed" (Acts 20:36).
4. Keep a prayer journal. "I have written both of them as reminders" (2 Peter 3:1).
5. Let people know that you are praying for them. "We constantly pray for you" (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
6. Whenever possible, pray for others about specific areas of concern. "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith" (Philemon 1:6).
7. Realize that praying for others may tax your mental, emotional and physical resources. "He [Epaphras] is always wrestling in prayer for you" (Colossians 4:12).
8. Pray continually for others. "We have not stopped praying for you" (Colossians 1:9).
9. Encourage people to share their needs and prayer requests. "Brothers, pray for us" (1 Thessalonians 5:25).
2 Corinthians 1:4 - "Comfort those in any trouble."
“Where have you been?” the mother questioned.
The little girl replied, “On my way home I met a friend who was crying because she had broken her doll.”
“Oh,” said her mother, “then you stopped to help her fix the doll?”
“No,” replied the little girl, “I stopped to help her cry.”
Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). In life, it's not a matter of if we're going to be hurt, but rather when and how we will deal with the pain. Hurt and pain are common experiences in life and only one thing will bring true relief - comfort. When someone needs comfort, try to avoid these unproductive responses:
While some of these responses may be appropriate to share after the hurting person has been comforted, they don’t work as the initial response. Comfort first, then when appropriate, offer advice, spiritual guidance, etc.
- Advice/instruction – “Let me give you some steps of action to solve the problem.” “Maybe next time that happens you should...”
- Logic/reasoning – “Let me analyze the situation and tell you why it happened.” “I think the reason that happened was because...”
- Pep talk – “You’re a winner! You’ll make it through these tough times!” “I’m sure tomorrow will be a better day.”
- Minimize – “Sure it hurts, but get it in perspective; there’s a lot going on that’s good.” “Aren’t you being overly sensitive?”
- Anger – “That makes me so mad! They shouldn’t get away with that!” “I’m so upset that you keep getting yourself hurt.”
- Martyr’s complex – “I had something similar happen to me.” “After the kind of day I had, let me tell you what hurt really feels like.”
- Personal fear/anxiety – “I’m afraid that what has happened to you is going to affect my life too.”
- Silence/neglect – Not saying anything.
- Mr. “Fix it” – “I can’t believe that salesman talked to you like that. I’m calling the store right now and talking to his boss.” “I know you must have been scared when you had a flat tire on that lonely road. Tomorrow I’ll take the car in and get a whole new set of tires.”
- Spiritualizing – “Well, you know that God will work all of this out for your good.” “It’s good to know that we are more than conquerors through Christ!”
Romans 16:16 - "Greet one another..."
Peggy Noonan, special assistant and primary speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan, relates a story about a woman named Frances Green, an eighty-three-year old who lived by herself on the outskirts of San Francisco. She had little money, but for eight years she’d been sending one dollar a month to the Republican National Committee.
One day Frances received a RNC fund-raising letter in the mail, a beautiful piece on thick, cream-colored paper with black-and-gold lettering. It invited the recipient to come to the White House to meet the President. She never noticed the little RSVP card that suggested a positive reply needed to be accompanied by a generous donation. She thought she’d been invited because they appreciated her dollar-a-month support.
Frances scraped up every cent she had and took a four-day train ride across America. Unable to afford a sleeper, she slept sitting up in coach. When she got to the guard and gave her name, the man frowned, glanced over his official list, and told her that her name wasn’t there. She couldn’t go in. Frances Green was heartbroken.
A Ford Motor Company executive was standing in line behind Frances and watched her story unfold. Realizing something was wrong, he pulled Frances aside. He asked her to return at nine o’clock the next morning and meet him there. She agreed. In the meantime, he made contact with Anne Higgins, a presidential aide, and got clearance to give her a tour of the White House and introduce her to the President. Reagan agreed to see her, “of course.”
The next day was anything but calm at the White House. Ed Meese had just resigned. There had been a military uprising abroad. Reagan was in and out of high-level secret sessions. But Frances Green showed up at nine o’clock, full of expectation and enthusiasm.
The executive met her, gave her a wonderful tour of the White House, then quietly led her by the oval office, thinking maybe, at best, she might catch a quick glimpse of the president on her way out. Members of the National Security Council came out. High-ranking generals were coming and going. In the midst of all the hubbub, President Reagan glanced out and saw Frances Green. With a smile, he gestured her into his office.
As she entered, he rose from his desk and called out, “Frances! Those darn computers, they fouled up again! If I’d known you were coming I would have come out there to get you myself.” He then invited her to sit down, and they talked leisurely about California, her town, her life, and her family.
The President of the United States gave Frances Green a lot of time that day – more time than he had. Some would say it was time wasted. But those who say that didn’t know Ronald Reagan. He knew this woman had nothing to give him, but she needed something he could give her. President Reagan greeted Frances, and it deeply impacted her life, his life, and the lives of those around them.*
Numerous times in Scripture we see the powerful ministry of Greeting One Another. Yet, because it seems so simple to perform, we often underestimate its importance and mistakenly assume that we know how to do it.
Here are seven simple suggestions for developing a "greeting etiquette."
1) Make eye contact.
3) Develop a greeting vocabulary.
4) Use a person's name. If you don't know his name, find it out.
5) If you're greeting someone for the first time, give your name.
6) Physically acknowledge and affirm the person.
7) Use a friendly tone of voice, and be warm and personable.
*Peggy Noonan, "Character Above All," quoted in Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, 113.
Ephesians 4:32 - “Be kind…to one another”
Early in my childhood, I experienced a moment of kindness that I have never forgotten. One Wednesday evening, I brought a toy pellet gun to church. A friend of mine and I found an empty room next to the fellowship hall, lined up some paper cups, and had target practice. When one of the pastors of the church unexpectedly came into the room – we knew we were in trouble…
|A Christmas Story, film, 1983|
But instead of the expected reprimand, he said, “Hi boys. Looks like you’re having fun. That’s a neat pistol you’ve got. Can I shoot it?” Our tension eased as he shot several pellets at the targets. But I’ll never forget what came next. He bent over, picked up the pellets off of the floor (the ones he had shot), and handed them to me. His gentleness and kindness made a deep and lasting impact on my young heart.
God’s people must be kind! Indeed, one of the attributes of God is kindness. Yes, he is holy, just, sovereign, and righteous, but he is also kind. His ultimate kindness was express in our redemption: “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us” (Titus 3:4-5). And his kindness leads us to righteous living: “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:4).
Ephesians 4:32 - "Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you"
President Lincoln was once asked how he was going to treat the rebellious Southerners when they had finally been defeated and returned to the Union of the United States. The questioner expected the Lincoln would take a dire vengeance, but he answered, "I will treat them as if they had never been away."
Many of the One Anothers are normal expressions of human nature. For instance, most mothers have an innate, maternal desire to care for their children; most extroverts are comfortable greeting people...But our human nature struggles with the willingness to forgive. Here are several thoughts on forgiveness, as you start your week:
1) Forgiveness is a choice; its a function of our wills, not our emotions. We will seldom feel like forgiving others; we just choose to do so.
2) Forgiveness is a matter of stewardship. We are to forgive others because God has forgiven us. We simply share with others that which we have received from Him.
3) We should forgive whether or not our offender asks our forgiveness. Often, our offender will not seek our forgiveness, but that should not prevent us from forgiving him.
4) We should not make our forgiveness conditional. Forgive with no strings attached. ("I'll forgive you, if....")
Ultimately, forgiving others will benefit us - we will be freed from anger and bitterness. If you refuse to forgive others, these toxic emotions will lodge in your heart and poison your soul.
Making theory practical, identify someone who has wronged you or hurt you in the past. Have you forgiven him or her? If not, carefully think through the situation (and, perhaps visit with a friend about it) and then as an act of your will, forgive.
1 Peter 4:9 – “Offer hospitality to one another.”
This Thanksgiving holiday, many of you will host family and friends in your home, sharing a meal, thoughts of gratitude, and yes, maybe even some good old-fashioned American football. The fact that you have invited people into your world is significant, and the most important thing is what can happen in the hearts of your guests. Less important is the size or quality of your house, or the perfection of your cooking...
Showing hospitality was an integral part of Jesus’ life and ministry. Throughout the Gospels, we see him attending to the physical needs of others and inviting people to be with him. On two separate occasions, he fed large groups of people who had gathered to hear him speak (Mark 8:1-9 and John 6:1-14). In Mark 6:31, Jesus invited his tired disciples to “come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” In John 13, we read about Jesus washing his followers’ feet – a gracious act of servanthood and hospitality.
Perhaps the ultimate act of hospitality was offered when Jesus shared his last meal with his disciples (Matthew 26:26-30). During this final Passover meal, they not only partook of physical break and drink, but Jesus invited them to share in a more intimate and important spiritual meal. Foretelling his crucifixion, Jesus offered break and wine to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body. Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” This offer of “spiritual hospitality” was not limited to the twelve disciples but extends to everyone – the stranger, the unloved, the broken, the sick and tired – every human being who wishes to partake, may.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!
James 5:16 "Confess your sins to each other."
Many Christians acknowledge the need to confess sins to God (I John 1:9) and make it a regular part of their prayer life. But many of us neglect confessing to others when we sin against them! Have you 'blown it' recently with someone? Inevitably, we all make mistakes...Many times when confessing, we are tempted to:
1) Minimize the offense - "Yeah, I got angry and yelled at you, but that's not the main issue."
2) Rationalize/justify - "The reason I yelled was..."
3) Blame others - "I wouldn't have become angry if you hadn't..."
4) Offer a trite confession - "Okay, okay; I'm sorry."
5) Ignore/avoid the offense - "Let's talk about something else."
Any attempt to rationalize, justify, or blame others will dilute our confession. Even though what we're tempted to say may be true, it's inappropriate and counterproductive to discuss these issues at the same time we're confessing.
As the Christmas holidays are approaching, I'm reminded of an example of 'confess your sins' I once witnessed between a husband and wife:
I am sorry about getting into an argument about putting up the Christmas lights. I guess that sometimes I feel like you are pushing me too hard when you want something. I realize that I was wrong and I am apologizing for being such a hard-headed guy. All I want is for you to be happy and be able to enjoy the holiday season. Nothing brightens the Christmas spirit like Christmas lights! I took the time to hang the lights for you today; and now I will be off to the hockey rink.
Again, I am very sorry for the way I acted yesterday. I'll be home later. Love you...
Thank you for that heart-felt apology. I don't often get an apology from you, and I truly appreciate it. I, too, felt bad about the argument and wanted to apologize. I realize that I can sometimes be a little pushy. I will try to respect your feelings from now on. Thank you for taking the time to hang the Christmas lights for me. It really means a lot. In the spirit of giving, I washed your truck for you; and now I am off to the mall. I love you too!