Bibles and Backsides

So when I was preaching last week on the “one anothers” of the New Testament, I included Romans 12:10 as one of the passages I wanted to cover. Here’s what it says:

Be devoted to one another in brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

When we talked about showing honor, I used the example prevalent at our church and many others of putting bibles, notebooks, purses, etc. on benches, pews or chairs to save seats for ourselves. I made the point that there may be reasons we do this other than outright selfishness, but that’s not the same thing as outdoing someone else in showing honor, or as some translations say “prefer one another in honor”. The practice makes it difficult for larger families to find seats together because groups of two or three people just take whatever spots are convenient for them or where they are used to sit instead of looking for the somewhere that there are only 2 or 3 open seats. It’s also intimidating to new attenders who don’t want to step on someone’s toes and so instead the wander around longer than they really should have to looking for a seat, the whole time feeling like everyone is looking at them. The point of the example was not that we should or shouldn’t put bibles on seats, but that we have many opportunities to obey the command to prefer one another in honor and when we don’t we are sinning.

I was actually quite flabbergasted by the responses I got from people. Rather than reflection on whether or not they were failing to honor their brothers and sisters, the vast majority of comments I got were sarcastic one liners about their bibles or excuses about how hard it is to get a seat when you don’t do that. Only a few people said anything close to “thank you for that reminder – I need to make sure I am not letting my casual behaviors demonstrate my lack of obedience to this command.” One person who I love dearly said we ought to do like the old Baptists did and buy seats and put our names on them, to which I replied “yes, and then let other people sit there instead of us.”

The thing this pointed out to me is how quickly people defend themselves when confronted not only with sin, but with the possibility of sin. I asked myself what would the godly response have been to that type of situation. I think King David nailed it.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139:23-24

There are lots of “judgment calls” we face on a daily basis as Christians. When I tell my son I can’t look for his toy right now, am I being selfish with my time or honoring my employer by working on this project instead? Is enjoying this dessert a moment of weak gluttony or a way to honor the person who made it for my enjoyment? I could go on forever with other examples. What should our response in these things be?

We should first of all know that even as Christians, our hearts try to deceive us and it is easy to get distracted in our battle against sin. Sin itself is especially deceptive and does what it can to fool us into thinking that we’re doing right even as we’re doing wrong. We need to be praying regularly that God would search us and show us our own hearts as He sees and knows them. We need to be asking those around us who love the Lord and love us to tell us whether they see sin in our lives. When someone does approach us with the possibility of our sin – whether personally or from the pulpit – we need to graciously accept and consider it so we can repent of any true sin. If our reaction to the prospect of our sin is to deflect it or defend ourselves we will never be transformed into the image of Him who knew no sin.


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