By Alex Florez
Today’s passage got me thinking about what it looks like when people honor each other. I think of Lifetime Achievement awards at the Grammys; of soldiers returning from a tour of duty; of crowds electric with adulation as parade floats carrying Super Bowl champions pass them in the streets. In all of these scenes, people come together to celebrate an event or accomplishment that they agree merits honor of the highest order.
Another thing that comes to mind is a funeral. Here, family members or friends offer personal reflections on the deceased. I’ve been to a lot of funerals over the years, and I have yet to witness anyone stand up and bash the character or behavior of the person who has just passed away. In these moments immediately preceding our burial, even the least among us can expect some kind words to be said about us. Here, as our final rites are being issued, the standard convention is to honor the dearly departed with solemn words of respect.
Everyone who’s lost a loved one has this sentiment in common: we all wish we had had more time to tell the person who has died how much we love them, how important they were to us. When we lose someone we cherish, our instinct is to honor them the best we can in the wake of their passing.
But today’s reading begs the question: why do we wait so long to “take the lead in honoring one another” (Romans 12:10)? Why do we wait for the end of someone’s life to express our deepest sentiments of love and affection?
I’m not talking about empty flattery or pandering to someone’s ego. If we think of every human being we meet as a beautiful and unique creature crafted in the image of God, we should get to work honoring them as soon as possible. Everyone from the toddlers at your church’s Sunday school to the teenagers on your son’s basketball team, from the co-workers you spend forty to seventy hours a week with to your closest friends and family: what would it look like to honor them by placing their interests above your own? What if we humbled ourselves to the point that we were motivated to honor our brothers and sisters in Christ with kindness, compassion, and respect?
Paul urges us to honor one another, but he specifically encourages us to “take the lead” in doing so. This means we have no time to waste. The time to honor one another as sons and daughters of the King is now. It is part of our calling as the Church to speak words of kindness and to perform acts of loving service wherever we go. In this way, the world will know that we belong to Jesus, and the people whom we honor will be reminded that their Father in heaven is with them always.