After Paul’s inspired doctrinal discussion in his letter to the church at Rome (Rom. 1-11), emphasizing the general theme of the book, which is justification, through his thesis, which is justification by faith in Christ (Rom. 1:17), the apostle turns to instructing his brethren in the practical applications of the faith. Paul begins with the call to present the saints’ bodies “a living sacrifice,” not conforming to this world, but being “transformed by the renewing of our mind” (Rom. 12:1-2), so that Christians may understand and be prepared to not only have their faith in knowledge, but all comprehend how to live by their faith. Within chapter 12, Paul elucidates the Christian ethics (vs. 9-21). Verse 10 of the Christian’s virtues is where the study will be focused. Paul writes, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” How do Christians carry out the divinely given responsibility to prefer one another?
Before Christians can put into practice the doctrinal truths instructed in the Christian ethics, they must examine the context and what mental preparations need to be considered before they fulfill the command adequately. In the Romans 12:1-8, Paul emphasizes that the followers of God must first learn how to correctly think of themselves. They are to humble their minds to the service of God because such service is only reasonable considering the mercies that God has given, and they are to be a living sacrifice in that service (vs. 1). Christians must think soberly, they should know that they have no reason to think of themselves more highly than is proper after the renewing of their minds in Christ (vs. 2-3). The brethren must see themselves no more important than any other member, and they must be satisfied with the position and placement where God has given to them in the body because each member remains essential to the proper functioning of the body (vs. 4-8).
In Romans 12:9-13, Paul transitions to discussing that Christians need to think correctly about their brethren. Remember that all Christians are members of the same body, and none is more important than the other. The saints are to sincerely love their brethren without hypocrisy; they should be drawn to do what is good and despise evil (vs. 9). Only through this mindset can they be prepared to adequately obey Paul instruction in verse 10. By putting others first certain acts will likely unfold (vs. 11-13). Such actions include: a willingness to serve others, uplifting attitude, enduring patience, constant in prayer, generosity, and hospitality.
Within such context, Christians may understand how they are to think correctly about preferring one another (Rom. 12:10). The word “prefer” means to go before, to lead the way, or to show the way. Christians show honor to each other, as they prefer one another, setting a proper example for others in going before, or leading. The meaning is that saints are to lead the way in giving honor to others, seeking to be respectful, not in demanding respect, nor in gaining honor, but in giving honor. Christians should sincerely want to be around their brethren because they love them, because they respect them, and because they honor them. The faithful will work steadfastly for the benefit of each other, sincerely seeking the best for each, an honestly desiring to bring happiness and promotion to all.
Christians do not prefer one another when they skip worship or skip a church fellowship activity to watch strangers play a game, or to watch fictional stories on tv, or to participate in worldly affairs. If a Christian truly prefers being with their brethren and seeks to sincerely show love to their brethren, they will show up for them. It is literally the least a person can do. When did the least a person can do become the most a Christian should be expected to do?! A Christian can easily become discouraged in well doing when their own brethren don’t even show up for their classes, the worship they helped to organize and lead, the church activities that they organized, or the evangelism programs they started. A brother or sister who really prefers to be with their church family will not just show up but will actively engage in the opportunities prepared for them. Church members put in many hours of work that few people see and even less appreciate for worship service, Bible classes, outreach programs, and fellowship activities. The Christian ethic requires that Christians support their brethren and sincerely prefer to be with them over the world.