I have no doubt that you have experienced this lately. Perhaps you've seen it while shopping in a store, or you're driving on the highway. It bothers you. It irritates you. You wish it wasn't there. The problem seems to grow worse every year.
What is it? It's a lack of common courtesy in society today.
I'm sure you and I could agree that there is a general lack of respect and courtesy today. From angry retail customers who fly off the handle at a moment's notice, to the road rage that plagues the highways, it seems like the whole culture is irritated, impatient and angry.
But as people of faith, you and I are called to be something different. In this passage, Paul speaks about many things, and one of his key ideas concerns the need for Christians to be courteous to others.
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. [Titus 3.1-8, ESV]
Let's take a look at several observations we can learn about the simple act of courtesy from these verses:
1. It involves the whole person. Paul tells us that being courteous involves our minds, speech and attitudes. It's a whole-person affair that involves much more than just opening the door for someone occasionally
2. Being courteous is a result of being changed. Paul refers to how we were once foolish and lost, apart from Christ. We are free to show respect and courtesy to others because Christ has shown us his magnificent love first.
3. Courtesy doesn't discriminate. We are to show perfect courtesy "toward all people." From the wealthiest person you know, to the beggar on the street, each person should be treated the same. All people deserve respect because all are created in God's image.
4. Faith results in positive action. Your faith is not dead; it is alive and it's meant to be lived out in practical ways. Faith is more than belief in God and the Bible; it's rooted in God but it branches out into action. As James reminds us, faith without works is dead.
These are just four simple observations about courtesy. But that's OK because we don't need to dwell on what courtesy and respect mean; we just need to put it into action.
My Challenge For You
Over the next 24 hours you will likely encounter a variety of people. Choose three people whom you will talk to in the next day. In your daily interactions, pretend in your mind that you will be the only representative of Christ they will ever see. Is the courtesy and respect you show attractive enough to make them want to learn from about Christ?