“Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10, KJV).
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (NKJV).
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; giving preference to one another in honor” (NASB).
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (ESV).
It is not uncommon for this to be misunderstood. Some have understood it to mean that Christians should prefer other Christians as friends (cf. Proverbs 13:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33). Some have taken this to mean that Christians should do business with other Christians when possible (cf. Galatians 6:10). The word “preferring” or “preference” is what gives so many difficulty.
The original word means “‘To go before and lead’ used in Romans 12:10 in the sense of taking the lead in showing deference one to another” (Vine’s); “To go before and show the way, to go before and lead, to go before as a leader… one going before another as an example” (Thayer); “to go before and show the way” (B-A-G).
Here is what some commentators have said: Foy E. Wallace Jr., “…’preferring’ here it means leading one another on in honorable things. Inducing – promoting – exemplifying honor” (Wallace, Commentary on Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, p. 58). J.W. Shepherd, “Instead of waiting around for others to honor us, we should lead them in the manifestation of esteem and respect” (Libscomb and Shepherd, A Commentary on Romans, p. 226). J.W. McGarvey, “In matters of giving respect and causing people to be held in high public estimation, Christians are to strive to outdo each other. The idea is that each should be more eager to confer honors than to obtain them” (McGarvey, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, Romans, p. 498). Roy Deaver, “The point is, in having an attitude of love and respect and high esteem for others, Christians ought to be examples to each other” (Deaver, Romans: God’s Plan For Man’s Righteousness, p.476).
Sometimes, we are prone to say, “I’ll treat him kindly, when he shows me some kindness.” Thus, we wait for the other to make the first move.
Romans 12:10 is teaching that we should be setting the example. Instead, of waiting around for others to show kindness, love, or honor – we should take initiative to demonstrate such. We should seek to set the spiritual pace.