Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:10 ESV
Affection is all warm and melty until something ruptures the relationship. What happens when the bonds of affection are broken?
Since there is nothing new under the sun, a hero of the faith, Jonathan Edwards, faced this same stiff challenge while pastoring his church in Northampton. His biographer, George Marsden, explains it this way:
“Once the bonds of affection were broken, each side, as in any controversy, soon saw the other as unreasonable and even perverse. In the Northampton case, the intensity of the feelings was heightened by the fact that the two parties had once been great lovers, each of whom now viewed themselves as betrayed.” George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, Yale University Press, p. 374
When I read this quote recently I found the perfect word to capture the depth of emotion involved in a breakup. Why does it hurt so much? Because it feels like betrayal—one of the most difficult emotions to handle! Betrayal is a violation of trust. Someone who betrays others is commonly called a traitor—a strong concept that produces immense moral and psychological conflict within a relationship.
Herein lies our problem. We are strongly urged in Romans 12:10 to show brotherly affection—the same kind of gentle fondness a mother has for her children—to one another. So, when there is a breakup between brothers and sisters within the church, how do we restore affection once it has been lost? What is the antidote?
Romans 12:10 provides a unique solution to the problem. We are urged to compete in honoring each another—preferring each other—instead of constructing a case against each other. The return of our genuine affection is tangibly expressed in words and deeds which build up instead of tear down.
How can I build a case against someone when I am actively thinking of ways of showing them respect?