“…Honour one another above yourselves.”
Romans 12:10 (NIV)
Jonathan Jones, an art critic for The Guardian Newspaper, has written that “In late 19th- and early 20th-century France the paintings of [J.M.W.] Turner hovered…in the imaginations of artists from Monet to Matisse, who learned from them how colour could be expressive, atmospheric, even abstract.” He goes on to describe Turner as “the man who invented modern painting.”
The Late Turner exhibition, held at the Tate Britain between September 2014 and January 2015, was the first exhibition devoted to the work he created between 1835 and his death in 1851. It went under the sub-title ‘Painting Set Free.’ Wandering round the exhibition I could see what this critic was referring to: Some of Turner’s work was lively, vibrant and vigorous. Many paintings concentrated on the use of colour, while others were detailed and meticulous. Some were realistic, others abstract, and the atmospheric ones drew you into the scene. Undoubtedly he was a great artist.
As I reflected on the exhibition I thought about the great artists of history. Ask them to paint a subject and each one would no doubt have produced something quite different. Some would see the whole thing; others concentrate on a single detail. To one, an accurate representation would be important, to another it would be the impression that counts. None of the artwork would necessarily be wrong, as each one gave a different viewpoint—a personal reaction to what they were asked to paint.
Isn’t this like life? We all see things a bit differently. We each react in our own way. Being different doesn’t necessarily mean we’re wrong, or that someone else is. We’re just concentrating on different bits of the whole picture.
Just as we can appreciate the skills and talents of different artists, who can come up with such varied interpretations of the same subject, wouldn’t it be good if we were less dogmatic, less judgmental, and less harsh with other people? Maybe they too have a glimpse of the truth and maybe it’s as valid as ours.
Wouldn’t it be good to take time to listen to other people while trying to understand where they are coming from? To my mind that would be a good practical application of what Paul was writing about in Romans 12:10 above. Other translations bring out different nuances to what Paul wrote: Today’s English Version says, “Be eager to show respect for one another.” The English Standard Version says, “Outdo one another in showing honour.”
As we listen to the perspectives of other people in a spirit of understanding we are showing respect and honour. It shows that we can place them above ourselves (c.f. NIV) and are practicing “playing second fiddle”. In The Message Version Paul says we are to ‘be eager’ and ‘out do’ one another in treating people like this. If we follow his advice we will then be set free to “Be devoted to one another in love…” (Verse 10 NIV)
Father, help me to appreciate the perspectives of other people and to have the grace to show respect and honour in love to all.
Study by Barry Robinson
Worldwide Church of God London
Mahatma Gandhi Hall
41 Fitzroy Square
Local Congregational Contact:
Phone: 020 8202 3998