How can we “esteem others” who aren’t living as they should?

Q. Paul writes in Philippians, “Let each esteem others better than themselves.” My question is, how can a born-again Christian esteem other members of the church when the majority seem to live like non-believers? They attend church on a regular basis, attend Bible class, and sing in the choir, but you know for a fact they are living like non-believers. Smoking, drinking, partying, going to clubs, gambling, using foul language, etc. If they are not doing these things, they still don’t seem to be living a Christian lifestyle. They never talk about the Lord, read their Bibles, witness to anyone, etc. They are just good church attenders. How can one esteem these people better than themselves?

God sees us not as we are now, but as the best we can be. And God relates to us that way as well—never giving up on us, always believing in us, forgiving us and giving us second chances.

I think Paul’s admonition in Philippians is an invitation for us to relate to our fellow Christians in this same way. Certainly if we saw others through God’s eyes, as the best they could be, and if we believed in them as God believes in them, we would have no trouble esteeming them as better than ourselves, recognizing the many ways in which we personally fall short.

Often Christians who are struggling just need a fellow Christian to come alongside them, encourage them, and believe in them. This is difficult for us to do when we regard others with human eyes, but if we ask God to give us a glimpse of them as He sees them, as their Creator, we will have a whole new perspective.

It’s great that you’re taking this admonition to heart and asking how you can live it out. I suggest that you start maybe with one person in your church and ask God to help you see them as He sees them. I believe this will have a revolutionary effect not only on your attitude and perspective towards that person, but on the influence you will have in their life. You’ll likely want to pray this for more and more people in your church as you see what God does in you and through you.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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