When it’s OK for Christians to compete

October 14, 2012 — 12 Comments

It’s hard for me to imagine God as being competitive. Nor do I find my own competitive urges to be very much in line with the call to love and serve other people. Quite to the contrary, competition lends itself more toward pride and ambition than it does humility and sacrifice.

Yet there is one clear instance in scripture where disciples of Christ are encouraged to be competitive. At least you could say Paul had no problem urging this attitude upon the saints in Rome. Sandwiched between a row of practical exhorations which include commands to “let love be genuine,” “abhor what is evil,” and “rejoice in hope,” Paul also admonishes the disciples to

Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10, ESV)

Outdo one another, he says. Other translations say to “honor one another above yourselves.” Either way what Paul is saying is this: Go for the gold when it comes to raising other brothers and sisters up higher than yourself. See who can do it the most, the best. Strive to be number one in this arena. Don’t let anybody show more honor toward you than you show toward them.

Now that’s the kind of competition we all could use more of! How often do you see Christians engaging in this kind of holy rivalry?

A few chapters later Paul would introduce Phoebe-his letter-bearer-to his friends in Rome. “Welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints,” he instructs (Rom. 16:1). His expectation of those who shared in Christ was for a warmth of hospitality and fellowship that surpassed anything the world had to offer among its own. The special fraternity of the early churches most definitely comes into view in these passages.

So we might imagine the disciples in Rome vying with one another over who would get to be the one to give up their bed for Phoebe to sleep on during her stay. Perhaps there was wine and a meal brought out by Priscilla right there on the spot in celebration of her arrival. Who knows? All we can assume is that Paul expected them to lay out a welcome that was “worthy of the holy ones.”

It’s a tremendous thought really, and one which I dare say we don’t give enough time to. In all our one-anothering let us not overlook this simple fragment from Romans 12. “Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Make this an exercise today. Find a brother who is cast down or a sister who needs encouragement. Lavish them with honor. Be creative about it. Then come back to this blog and leave a comment about the results. What did your special treatment mean to them? What effect did it have even on yourself?

This is a blog post in a Chain Blog started by Alan Knox. Read on to learn about the other links in the chain, and to find out how you can participate in this chain blog.

Links in the ‘One Another’ Chain Blog

  1. Chain Blog: One Another – Alan Knox
  2. Linking One Another – Swanny
  3. What Does It Mean to Love One Another? – Chuck McKnight
  4. The treasure of ‘One Another’ – Jim Puntney
  5. This is how the world shall recognise you… – Kathleen Ward
  6. Accepting one another in love – Chris Jefferies
  7. One Another: A meta-narrative for the church – Part One and Part Two by Greg Gamble
  8. Individualism and “One Another” – Pieter Pretorius
  9. All Alone with One Another – by Jeremy Myers
  10. When it’s OK for Christians to compete – Joshua Lawson
  11. Who will write the 11th link post in the chain?

Chain Blog Rules

  1. If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
  2. Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog (both this post and the other link posts in the chain).
  3. When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.


12 responses to When it’s OK for Christians to compete

  1. Joshua,

    Thanks for taking part in the chain blog! You’re right… that’s the kind of “competition” we need among the body of Christ. Who can “outdo” one another in honoring others. And, like you said, that’s one of the characteristics of genuine love. I like the challenge too!


  2. I enjoyed your post, brother! May we always honor one other, above ourselves. I would like to write the next link in the chain and I will leave a comment here when it is ready.

  3. You invited us to ‘Make this an exercise today. Find a brother who is cast down or a sister who needs encouragement. Lavish them with honor. Be creative about it. Then come back to this blog and leave a comment about the results. What did your special treatment mean to them? What effect did it have even on yourself?’

    I’m glad you added that challenge, Joshua. I try to make this an exercise for every day. Almost always the results are positive, just noticing someone’s pain seems to be an encouragement way beyond what we might expect.

    Henry Drummond wrote, ‘Kindness is love in action. Have you ever noticed how much of Christ’s life was spent doing good things, simply being kind? Think it over in that way and you’ll notice that he invested a lot of time in merely making people happy.

    ‘There’s only one thing in the world greater than happiness. That’s holiness and it’s not something we have control over. But what the Almighty has put in our power is the happiness of those around us. And in most cases it can be achieved just by being kind.

    He was so right!

    And what effect does it have on me? It encourages me to keep honouring others. And not just other believers, not-yet-believers too 🙂

    • Excellent point, Chris. Sometimes the greatest kindness we can offer other people is simply to stop and listen to them share what they are going through in life. Or, as you said, notice their pain. It means a lot to people just to know someone cares.

  4. We all tend to have a competitive spirit, with this concept on ‘one anothering’ we have an open field to exercise our love for ‘one another’.

    I like the term bestowing honor, its rich with meaning.

    bestow [bɪˈstəʊ]
    vb (tr)
    1. to present (a gift) or confer (an award or honour)
    2. Archaic to apply (energy, resources, etc.)
    3. Archaic to house (a person) or store (goods)
    bestowal , bestowment n
    bestower n

    Love this ‘one another’ chain, so rich, and helpful!

    Great blog Joshua!

  5. I’m keeping this chain blog going with a new post called “The Unmentionable One Anothers.” I’d love your input!


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