Paul now calls his readers to live out the fact that they have been adopted into God’s family. We know that there is something wrong with a family that does not practice love. Usually, in a family there will devotion to one another. How do Christians express this attitude?
No doubt, many answers could be given to this question, but Paul here gives one way when he writes that they should ‘outdo one another in showing honour’. This would have been challenging to the free members of the congregation as far as their attitudes to other members of the congregation, who were slaves, were concerned. Yet, when we think about it, we can also see it would be a challenge for those slaves to do the same.
In fact, Paul here is requiring something revolutionary, which is to show honour to people whoever they are, whether rich or poor, free or slave, old or young, male or female. Of course, there would be specific ways of showing honour depending on the roles and gifts of an individual. Yet the clear message is given that the attitude of each Christian has to be one of showing honour to every other believer. It would be hard to have a church fight when such devotion was the common attitude.
Then Paul mentions expressions of devotion to the Lord (v. 11). Perhaps Paul is stressing that it is easy to lose our zeal. The danger that Christians face is the dampening effects of idleness. Of course, idleness is an expression of laziness, but it also includes the element of indifference. The way to maintain zeal is to ensure that we have fervency of spirit. Our inner lives are to be marked by energy that comes from the Holy Spirit. When that is present, there will be service of the Lord.
This means that it is possible for us to work out what is wrong if we do not have a burning desire to engage in serving Jesus. He only has one kind of servant and that is active servants whose inner lives are aflame for him. We can imagine a servant engaged in an errand for a master he loved. He would be marked by carefulness to detail, by determination to complete it, by gratitude in having the opportunity to serve him, and by delight as he fulfilled it. There would not be a problem with him understanding his own identity, nor would others have a problem in working out who he was.