Give Preference to One Another

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor,” Romans 12:10

     The command to “give preference to one another in honor” is an extension of the love Christians are to have for one another. We are a family, and this verse is calling on us to act like one. While the surrounding context of Romans 12:9-18 gives us great insight into what this looks like, we also find great examples in Philippians chapter 2. Philippians 2:3-4 offer a beautiful definition of love:

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4

     The remainder of Philippians 2 presents four examples that vividly illustrate the manifestation of genuine love when individuals “give preference to one another."

     Jesus demonstrates the ultimate expression of love, (Philippians 2:5-8). Jesus’ humility led Him to leave heaven to become a servant. He was willing to sacrifice everything to “give preference” to our needs above His own.

     Paul himself shows us the selflessness involved in “(giving) preference to one another,” as we read in Philippians 2:17-18. Despite facing persecution and imprisonment, Paul tirelessly labored for the sake of the gospel and the spiritual well-being of his fellow Christians. What’s more, he did not suffer for their sake grudgingly, but rather, he rejoiced for their faith! Paul's love and affection for his brothers and sisters in Christ led him to prioritize their needs above his own, (giving preference to them), demonstrating the true essence of brotherly love.

     Timothy exemplifies the personal sacrifices sometimes needed to "give preference" to others (Philippians 2:19-23). We learn from Acts 16:1-2 and II Timothy 1:3-5 that Timothy and his family were from Lystra, but he chose to move to Ephesus to preach the gospel. Despite having a good relationship with his mother and grandmother (II Timothy 1:5), Timothy willingly sacrificed the comfort of living in close proximity to his family in order to serve the Lord by serving others. As Paul explains in Philippians 2:20-22, Timothy's genuine care and concern for others compelled him to make such sacrifices.

     Finally, Epaphroditus reveals the dedication to endure physical sacrifice out of “preference” given to others, (Philippians 2:25-30). Epaphroditus was a brother in Christ sent by the Philippian church to minister to Paul during his imprisonment. Along his journey, Epaphroditus was willing to risk his life. Why? To paraphrase Philippians 2:3, because he considered Paul as more important than himself. That’s devotion. That’s giving preference to a brother in honor.

     The four examples of brotherly love presented in Philippians 2 provide us with a multifaceted understanding of devotion towards one another. Through these examples, we recognize that each person possesses distinct abilities and circumstances, which allow for different ways of "giving preference to one another." However, what remains crucial for every disciple is the unwavering commitment to go to great lengths in looking out for the interests of others, (Philippians 2:4), as we aim to “give preference to one another.”