“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:9-10
Paul gets right to the point here. Let’s have our love be genuine. Part of Paul’s request here is contingent upon genuine love not coming from any place of evil or wickedness. Instead, Paul wants us to hold fast to what is good. What’s interesting to me is that it seems even Paul knows it can be a challenge for people to hold fast to what is good. So interestingly enough, he brings in some words of implied competition to prompt people to meet this challenge!
Growing up with many activities in the Athens community, I wanted to outdo others in many things. On the basketball court, I wanted to outdo others in hustle. On the soccer field, I wanted to outdo others in skill. On the chess team, I wanted to outdo others in strategy. But I never thought about outdoing others in love. I must admit this is a strange request from Paul as I read it. However, I don’t think Paul used that word—“outdo”—to motivate our thinking that we are better than other people. Instead, I believe that Paul is motivating us to keep growing in love. This is a personal investment that impacts the world around us. On the basketball court, on the soccer field, and at the chess table, it took practice for me to get better at those activities. I had to practice so that my hustle, skill set, and strategy could improve. Love takes practice, too.
So often we think of competition as a means of triumphing over other people. Yet, Paul introduces competition here as a means of inspiring more and more love in Christ on this earth. Therefore, if we see someone else showing the love of Christ well on this earth, then Paul’s words should push us to grow in our love, too. The end goal is not our own edification, but a growing desire to make the love of Jesus Christ known upon this earth. As we grow in love, so does our faithful and genuine sharing of the Gospel message. So if it takes words of competition to help prompt us to grow in love, then Paul’s job here is complete.