Christian Courtesy

“…Be courteous.”
(1 Peter 3:8)

Christian courtesy is an important subject. It is embraced in the well-known text:

“This people have I formed for myself they shall shew forth my praise”
(Isaiah 43:21)

God’s people are called to be different. They should stand out from the world. And that not only in dress, chapel attendance, separation from wordliness, etc., but their behaviour should be seen to be different.

The world cannot understand some of the deep doctrines, but it does understand Christian courtesy.

The world does not read the Bible, but it does read God’s people:

“Ye are our epistle written in our hearts known and read of all men”.
(II Corinthians 3:2)

There is no excuse for a professing Christian to be rude, or ill-mannered, or impolite. A former generation set a most gracious example; many of them poor, uneducated, even illiterate, they were “nature’s gentlemen.”

Above all, the Lord Jesus was always courteous.

The sullen, unfriendly attitude of modern youth has nothing to commend it; our own young people must watch against it.

Some people pride themselves in being blunt, open, straightforward; whereas, in fact, they are downright rude.

Quite recently, in one of our towns, the roadsweeper went out of his way to sweep snow off the drives of three of the houses in one road. (They were all Strict Baptists.) When asked why just those three, he said, “They treat me in a different way from all the others in the road.” They were courteous to him.

J.C. Philpot, in his obituary of Lady Lucy Smith, a member of one of the oldest families of the nobility, remarked that she was equally respectful whether in speaking to a beggar or to a nobleman.

We need to be courteous in speech. To say, “Thank you,” costs nothing.

In going into a shop, why cannot we be different from the generality of people?

If we have a complaint to make — for instance, at school — let us be courteous. We gain nothing by rudeness, and certainly do not honour the Lord.

What about letter writing?

How deeply appreciated a kind note is!

How long is it since you wrote a letter of sympathy?

We remember an old lady who always noticed which people were not at chapel on the Lord’s day. She made enquiries, and if they were unwell (whether old or little children), she sent a short note on the Monday morning.

In illness, a loving visit can be of such help. Don’t stay long! And, if inconvenient, don’t stay at all! And don’t stare at the sick person or ask questions so you can tell everyone!

In trouble, likewise, a phone call, a card, a letter, a visit can mean so much. People usually say, “I just didn’t think!” In Scripture thoughtlessness is not an excuse; it is a sin.

Be courteous to visitors (and entertain them if necessary). We once had a stranger come to our house, so shabby and rough-looking we only reluctantly (we must confess) asked him in. We are so pleased we were not impolite. He proved to be a most
godly man.

Parents need to reprove and correct their children; may courtesy never be lacking.

Children need to be very careful lest they are discourteous to their parents — and to their teachers.

Husbands and wives must never allow their relationship so to degenerate that (though having a real, deep love underneath) politeness is lacking. “Even as Christ loved the church,” is the standard.

In dealing with very old people whose minds have gone, we need to be careful that we are not discourteous; certainly they must not be laughed at. They were once respected men and women, in their own homes, with their own friends and associates. Above all, if they are the Lord’s, He dearly loves them; they are still “the apple of His eye.”

Especially in the church of God, there is need of loving courtesy. We must remember that God’s people are the members of His mystical body. What we do (or say) to them must be “as unto the Lord.”

Where controversy arises, may it be carried on quietly and in a right spirit. How many have marred their cause by doing the right thing in a wrong way! There was much unnecessary bitterness and hatred in some of the controversies which racked the church of God, especially in the eighteenth century. Good John Brine was an outstanding controversialist. No one could be stronger for the truth; but he was so courteous with his opponents and, if he felt his opponent had grace, he would reason with him as a beloved brother.

It may be said that some have not had the upbringing, the background. Neither had John Kershaw.

How do you think he fitted in when staying at the home of Lady Lucy Smith?

Or being entertained by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh?

Where there is much of the love of Christ and with it true humility, however roughly brought up, a child of God will not do anything out of place. Why, the fear of God has an influence here; and seeking to honour the Lord, fearing to put self forward, there will be the meekness and kindness which are the essence of Christian courtesy.

One area where courtesy seems specially lacking today is on the road. And how sad it is when those who profess God’s name set such a bad example — breaking the speed limit, showing no consideration for others!

It was remarked to us recently that many can hear the most solemn sermon, and then drive home in a way which disgraces their Christian profession!

In the Word of God we have two people specially mentioned for courtesy — both, strangely, having no knowledge of the truth.

In Acts 27:3 we read: “And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.”

In Acts 28:7 we read: “In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.”

So Christian courtesy is a real blessing. It certainly has a unifying effect within the church of God; it certainly is a witness to those without.

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.”
(1 Peter 3:8)

“Make us of one heart and mind.
Courteous, pitiful, and kind;
Lowly, meek, in thought and word,
Altogether like our Lord.”

By B.A. Ramsbottom

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