Let us have real warm affection for one another as between brothers, and a willingness to let the other man have the credit. (Romans 12:10)
Verse 10 tells us that when we exercise grace, it will affect the people we meet. When we try to live out practical Christianity, we develop our relationships with the other brothers and sisters in the local church. Paul reminds us that we are in the family of God. We are brothers and sisters. He reminds us that relationship is the ground of our commitment to one another. There may be some brothers and sisters we like more than others, but we are commanded to be devoted to everyone, because we are all in the family. As it has been said, you can pick your friends, but you’re stuck with your relatives. Oh, I admit that sometimes it can be hard. If fact, someone put it this way:
To dwell above, with saints in love,
Ahh, that will be glory;
To dwell below with saints we know,
Well, that’s a different story!
There is a lot of truth to that poem. Sometimes it is difficult to dwell with saints below, but it can be done, and we need to learn to do it well.
Many of you have heard the story about how, on my trip home from Texas, I picked up a hitchhiker. When he saw my Bible lying on the dashboard, we started talking about the Lord. I very quickly learned that he indeed believed in Jesus, and was in fact, one of my brothers.
He was very tired and fell asleep while I drove us north. As he slept, the Lord began to open my heart toward this brother. I kept saying to myself, “If this was really my brother (referring to my physical brother, Dave) there isn’t a thing I wouldn’t do to help him.” I had picked this hitchhiker up in the south where it was a little warmer, and I realized, as we crossed the Mississippi River, that it was much colder where we were heading. He wanted to go to Chicago, and it was in early October.
As he slept I kept thinking, “If this were really my brother . . .” and the Lord said, “He is really your brother.” I would reply, “Yes Lord, I understand that, but if he was really my brother (again referring to my physical brother). “But, He is your brother . . .” “yes, I understand that, but if . . .” (I catch on a little slow, sometimes).
This went on for a few minutes and finally it hit me what the Lord was saying to me! He really was my brother! He was my brother as much as or more than my physical brothers.
Then I saw what my full responsibility was to this hitchhiker. I wasn’t really familiar with Chicago and he said I could drop him off at a rest stop near the city. When I finally let him out, I gave him my leather jacket, my sleeping bag, a couple of phone numbers of ministries that I knew in Chicago. I also gave him all the money I had on me at the time, which was about fifty-five dollars, and since he was about my size, I gave him some pieces of clothing out of my suitcase.
I am not trying to brag about how “spiritual” I am, but to illustrate that the Lord seems to take this “family relationship” quite seriously.
Going back to our study, we see that in latter part of verse 10 we have a real key to encouraging one another. It says, “Honor one another above yourselves.” You see, when we exercise grace toward one another, we regard others as more deserving than ourselves. This is what we are exhorted to do in Philippians 2:3, where it says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” The practical outworking of brotherly love in the body of Christ will be that we are eager to build up one another.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome