* This was preached during a service where our English and Spanish congergations met together. So it is a shorter sermon, due to the fact that it was spoken in English and Spanish.
Hugo McCord tells the story of a building that housed two different congregations. There was a time in their history when they got in such a big fight that eventually they started two services with one group meeting at the building Sunday morning followed by the second group meeting Sunday afternoon. This agreement continued for years, with the two groups sharing the same space, unable to put down their preferences and come together.
They were in a part of the country where coal was burned for heat in the winter months, and like so many other things, the use of coal became an issue. The second group accused the first group of using too much coal, while the first group claimed that it wasn’t fair the second group was allowed to come into a building that was already warm. The two groups decided their best course of action would be to divide the coal into two piles.
And for quite some time this was their agreement: two groups, using one building, choosing to remain separate. Eventually a new minister came to work in the area and took on the responsibility of trying to preach to both congregations. After being at the work for a few weeks the new minister changed the little marquee sign in front of the church building to read: One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism—and Two Coal Piles.
I am so thankful that we have this shared space, a place where we can gather and worship God in our own language. But I want to be mindful that we are not two congregations, that we do not allow our differences to keep us separate. Iglesia de Cristo de Greenbrier and the Greenbrier Church is a place where there is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, and One Body of Believers.
God has called us into a family that is so much greater than the languages we speak, the countries where we were born, our traditions in worship, and the color of our skin. We find common ground in the blood of Christ. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:9-10 Let love be without hypocrisy. Hate what is evil. Cleave to what is good. Be devoted to one another with brotherly love; prefer one another in honor.
Some translations say outdo one another in showing honor. I like that because it caries the idea of leading the way, to go first in showing honor to one another. It’s almost as if it’s a competition to see who can do the best job of honoring his fellow believers. Every time we gather together we have the opportunity to prefer one another in honor, which is a product of our love.
There is something wonderful about showing honor to another person. While it’s difficult to define, it is unmistakeable when you see it. When I show you honor, I am letting you know how important you are to me, how much I value you as an image bearer of God. Preferring one another in honor is an act of grace; it’s giving someone something they don’t always deserve and can never earn.
Don’t you feel good when someone shows a genuine interest in you as a person? That’s why we are told to honor everyone, no matter who they are. When we are honoring one another, we are showing with our actions that we are all equal. None of us stand on a perch so high that we can look down on someone else. Paul will continue in this text: Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Rich or poor, educated or ignorant, we all have one thing in common: We are the object of God’s love and we honor one another as a way of saying I love and value you because we are loved and valued by Christ.
When Jesus died on the cross His blood was shed for everyone, and that is the source of our worth and value. We were all bought at a price that costs more than all the gold in the world. The Son of God died on the cross so that you and I don’t have to die in our sins! That means we must be pretty important in God’s eyes. And if we’re that important to God, don’t you think we should regard one another as important, too? If that’s the case, then we really should be trying our hardest to show honor to each other and strive to put others first.
There is probably not a whole lot of folks here today that would say they were selfish. But let me ask you a few questions. You are walking in downtown Anniston and find a $20 bill on the ground, a little farther down you see a homeless man asking for help, what do you do with the money?
You finish your drink, what do you do with your empty glass; do you leave it on the table, put it in the sink, or put it with the there dirty dishes in the dishwasher?
You are in a group picture and the only problem with the picture is that your eyes are closed. Do you ask for the picture to be retaken?
In a few minutes you will be waiting in line at the fellowship meal and there are two deviled eggs left, do you take them both?
Whether or not we are comfortable admitting it, we all struggle with selfishness. And our selfishness makes it difficult to prefer and honor one another. We live in a culture that taught us to always ask what’s in it for me? How will I benefit from this? To demand my own way and not worry about you. But Jesus calls us to live a life that is focused on honoring one another. Jesus changes the question and asks what can I do to benefit you? There is no place for selfishness in a life that prefers others.
When we honor and prefer one another we are actually making the decision to put Jesus first in our lives. God hasn’t called us to live for our own glory, to fulfill our own wants and desires. God calls us to follow the lead of Jesus Christ and honor, prefer, and love the people who are created in His image. Paul is reminding us that we should see the same value in one another that Christ sees in us. We should see the worth in those who wear the image of God even if the world considers them worthless.
Everyone here has a preferred way of doing things, there things that we like and things that we don’t like. But Greenbrier must be a place where we are willing to give up our rights and choose to do what benefits others, because that’s what we see in Christ.
Honoring one another means that we choose to be humble and think of others before we think of ourselves. Christianity is the only place where humility is considered a virtue because Jesus showed us the power of humility.
Preferring others over ourselves is a form of honor. Inviting people into our lives and communities is a sign of humility. Taking the time to genuinely enter others’ lives is following the example of Christ. When we prefer one another we are saying you go first, I am content being second. Preferring one another says I am willing to sing your songs, I am willing to to love you more than having my own way.
While there are so many reasons that we have to remain separate, we have an even greater reason to come together. Today we have gathered to pray together, sing together, spend time as a family around the table, because we truly believe that we are called to prefer one another. It is my prayer that we will be know for the way that we honor one another in love.