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MIND YOUR MANNERS

                This past week, NBC featured a three part series entitled, “Is civility dead?” which examined rudeness in our society and how over the past few decades it has gotten worse.  Some of the behaviors examined included proper cell phone etiquette, making eye contact and showing manners such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and other behaviors that lend to a society that is far less polite than past generations.

                This is something we are all familiar with in one form or another.  We know that things have changed in our society.  While society has never been perfect, it is much worse now.  Our media culture seems to not only thrive on rudeness, but it even rewards it.  Consider the many reality shows on television where there is crude and lewd behavior and language tolerated.   Insults get ratings.  Bad behavior attracts the listeners.  Many of our reality “game shows” thrive on cut-throat actions and words.  The most popular talk show hosts spend a large percentage of their time insulting others.   With the social networks on the computer, rudeness is just a few key strokes away – either you starting the rude behavior or receiving it from some one else.  It is no secret that our youth are not as respectful as in past generations.  How often do we hear ‘please’ or  ‘thank you’ in our schools and where young people are gathered.  And even among adults, whether in the business world, as we are moving to and from work and during our leisure time, there seems to be less proper etiquette being followed.  Consider going to a sporting event, where during the National Anthem a group acts oblivious and keeps talking, does not stand and men fail to remove their hats.  Often times it is done deliberately and with knowledge that they are being disrespectful.  We could go on and on with examples of how our society has become known for its rude behavior and lack of manners. 

                Sadly society has to some degree come to accept such as normal and tolerable.  As previously mentioned, many of us are GUILTY of supporting such behavior by watching and listening to the shows that promote it.

                But what does Bible say about such behavior?  Are we as Christians and the Lord’s church affected by such things?  Let us notice some passages and principles from God’s word that we ought to consider in this matter.

                Throughout the Bible, we are expected to live as exemplary lives toward others, even toward those outside the body of Christ.  Matthew 5:13-16 describes us as both salt and light in this world.   Matt 5:13 says, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”  We are to “season” the world much as salt lends pleasant flavor to food.  I believe Jesus was saying we ought to be a pleasant influence for good toward “the earth”.  Salt is good but it must be used in moderation (blending in with the food).  When you use too much salt, it makes the food inedible.  Let us apply such to our conversations and conduct.  After giving another example of being an example as lights, Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16).  Verses such as these demonstrate that we need to be a proper example which would INCLUDE not being rude.   In 1 Peter 2:12 we are instructed to have “your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.  Being rude and acting without good manners is NOT in any way honorable in society not will it win you respect toward others, even if you do have the truth on your side.

                And it would not hurt to consider these verses toward one another as brethren as well (see Rom. 15:2, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.”)  In Ephesians 5:4 we read, “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  The overall intent of these passages addresses our relationship to our brethren, though the behavior needs to be prevalent toward everyone.  We need to ensure that we behave ourselves, EVEN in the midst of one another as brethren (cf. Heb. 10:24).

                Many other passages simply regulate our behavior at all times.  In Colossians 4:6 we are instructed to manage our language.  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

                I Corinthians 13:4-5 describes the love every Christian is to possess toward others (both within and without the Lord’s body).  Included in the description is this, “Love… does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;

                In 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, Paul was giving admonition to the brethren at Thessalonica.  He was concerned with their behavior which was improper.  Among the things he warned them of he said, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.”  IN 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 he said, “that you aspire to lead a quite life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.

                Other passages could be added to these which demonstrate the need for us as Christians to mind our manners and avoid being rude toward others.  We could conclude our discussion there, but there is more.

 

                There are also general principles about the Christian’s life that are directly affected by rude behavior.

1)       Christians ought to demonstrate gratitude in their lives.  When we consider what we have been given by God, we ought to be some of the most grateful people in the world.  Colossians 2:6-7 says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.  In 1 Thess. 5:18 we read, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  If we are thankful people, it will manifest itself in our behavior, not only toward God but toward others as well.   Often rudeness is the product of ingratitude.  Just as the prodigal son demanded his inheritance (Luke 15:11-13), so many today behave badly because they are not grateful.

2)       Christians need to be humble.  Like thanksgiving, humility is continually stressed in scripture.  1 Peter. 5:5-6 says, “Like you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders.  Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’.  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of god that He may exalt you in due time.”  This is just one of many texts that call for Christians to be humble.  The latter part of Romans 12:16 says, “Do not be wise in your own opinion.  Often rudeness and a lack of manners is the product of arrogance.

3)       Consider also the “golden rule” as recorded in Matthew 7:12.  It is a passage that tells us, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…”  We ought to seek to make this one of the key standards that we try to shape our lives by.  Having said that, how many of us like to be treated rudely?  How many of us enjoy the child who shows no manners?  Be honest!  Being rude is NOT treating others the way you want to be treated.

4)       Rudeness is ultimately demonstrated in selfishness.  Almost by definition, the inconsiderate behavior of so many is usually a demonstration of a self absorbed and self-centered attitude.  Such is STRONGLY condemned in scripture.  1 Cor. 10:24 commands, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well being.”  Phil. 2:3-4 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself.   Rude behavior is selfish behavior.

 

               I am certain we could add many other thoughts to these, but we have enough to remind us that as Christians we ought to mind our manners.  We are living in a self-absorbed time accompanied by difficulties.  People are hurting and sometimes the worldly don’t know how to properly behave.  Let us, as God’s people show them the benefits of being a Christian.  Let us show them how we are different.  We can do that by minding our manners.  What about you?  How would you describe your behavior toward others?  Think about it!