A verse of scripture has been on my mind all week and I can’t stop thinking about it. When that happens, I assume that it may be a prompting of the Holy Spirit that is important for my life and ministry.
The verse is from St. Paul’s exhortation on Christian behavior found in the twelfth chapter of the Letter to the Romans. It is verse ten and the translation that keeps coming to mind is from the New English Bible. It reads, “Give pride of place to one another in esteem” (Romans 12:10b NEB). Most other translations use honour instead of esteem, but those are not the translations that keep popping up in my mind.
Our English word esteem is derived from the same Latin root (aestimāre) as estimate and means “to assign value.” If I were to try my hand at a Ron’s English Version of this particular verse, I would write it like this: “Put others ahead of yourself to demonstrate how much you value them.”
The late Scottish Biblical Scholar, William Barclay, offered the following insight in his commentary on this passage: “More than half the trouble that arises in Churches concerns rights and privileges and prestige. Someone has not been given his or her place; someone has been neglected or unthanked. The mark of the [true Christian] has always been humility” (William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, Westminster, Philadelphia, 1975, p.164).
General Conventions, Episcopal and National Elections, Committee Meetings, as well as day-to-day life in churches of all sizes and locations afford many opportunities to practice being mindful that humbly loving one another as Christ loved us is a prime directive. The world at our doorstep is watching to see how we behave toward one another!
In the Baptismal Covenant, we vow with God's help to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” and to “respect the dignity of every human being.”
Do I look for the image of God in every person at every turn? Do I work at treating others as I would treat God? When I disagree with a fellow Christian, how will I tailor my response in a way that demonstrates esteem for that person, in spite of differences? When I prefer one candidate over another in an election, will my comments about the other candidate be tempered by my awareness that I am speaking about one who is the apple of God’s eye? When someone does something that bothers me, do I speak about the person or to that person? Am I more concerned with being valued by others than I am about putting others ahead of myself to show how much I value them? Am I more concerned about what I am getting than what I am giving?
If every Christian works at showing esteem for others, there will surely be enough esteem to go around, and then some. There must be a way for us to run our meetings, our elections, and our churches that puts others first and values them as those who are “Christ’s own for ever.” My reflection on all of this has helped me realize that I need to try harder. Let's see what happens if we all try harder, trusting that God will multiply our efforts.
I'll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral