A Little Courtesy, Please

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the food was great but the service was terrible?  Maybe the waiter was rude and inattentive.  Maybe you had to wait a long time for no apparent reason.  Maybe you did not get something that you requested.  For whatever reason, you walked away from the restaurant displeased with your experience even though the meal was good.  In the future, it is very unlikely that you or others who had the same experience as you will choose to go to that restaurant.  The restaurant will then fail as a business not because it lacks good food but because it lacks one key ingredient necessary for dealing with people – courtesy.

Courtesy is simply polite, respectful, and considerate behavior.  It is a manner of behaving that communicates to others that they are valued and appreciated.  It is to give a polite greeting, to defer in preference to others, to listen attentively when someone is speaking, to respond with kindness when spoken to, and to part with a respectful salutation.  Even in the most serious and unpleasant matters, courtesy will ease the tensions, relieve any ill will and distrust, and eliminate any unkindness or insults.  As stated in Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Courtesy is the best way to make any situation more pleasant and agreeable to everyone involved.

Courtesy is easy to learn and easy to perform for those who love God and man.  All that is needed for courtesy is to practice the Lord’s “golden rule” – “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31).  The Lord said that this rule summarizes the entirety of the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 7:12).  This is because courtesy is the simplest expression of neighborly love, and neighborly love is the essence of God’s commandments pertaining to our dealings with one another (Rom. 13:9-10).  For those who possess such godly love for others, courtesy will come naturally (see 1Cor. 13:4-7).

The value of courtesy is immeasurable, for there is no way to know what good may come as a result of simply treating people with dignity, respect, and consideration.  Consider the words of Erastus Wiman, who was a nineteenth century journalist and businessman:

“Nothing is ever lost by courtesy.  It is the cheapest of the pleasures; costs nothing and conveys much.  It pleases him who gives and him who receives, and thus, like mercy, is twice blessed.”

The statesman Henry Clay likewise commented, “Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.”  Such a small and costless investment as a kind and courteous word can return priceless profits.

However, we do not always practice courtesy as we should.  It is sometimes too easy to become hardened by the world and cold toward others.  Has this happened to you?  Test yourself to see if you are practicing courtesy.  Do you give a warm greeting to others, or do you look the other way to avoid them?  Do you listen to them when they speak, or do you turn a deaf ear?  Do you give preference to others over yourself, or are you selfishly impatient and rude?  Understand that if you are not courteous to others, then the message you are sending to them is that they are not important and that you do not care for them.  This is an unacceptable message if you are a Christian, for you are charged by the Lord to have love for others and to appeal to them through His gentleness and love (2Tim. 2:24-26).  Therefore, courtesy is much more than just a matter of good manners.

Discourteous behavior is especially inexcusable among brothers and sisters in Christ.  Brethren should have warm affection for one another, and that should be evident in their behavior.  Several times in the New Testament, Christians were directed to greet one another with a “holy kiss” (Rom. 16:16; 1Cor. 16:20; 2Cor. 13:12; 1Thess. 5:26).  In our culture, we do not typically kiss one another in greeting, but we still must greet one another with all the love, care, and respect that a holy kiss would express.  It is not fitting for Christians to enter an assembly of the church, retreat to back pew with as little conversation as possible, and then bolt for the door as soon as the service concludes.  Brethren who are unkind, rude, or inattentive to one another in any setting fail to practice genuine brotherly love and put their love of God into question (1John 4:20-21).

The lesson here is that courtesy is necessary.  Whether we are dealing with our fellow family members in the home, our fellow brothers in sisters in Christ, or anyone else, courtesy is necessary for successful and godly relationships.  Without courtesy, our homes will be filled with strife and anger.  Without courtesy, Christians will have cold and loveless relationship with one another that will not endure.  Without courtesy, the gospel that we preach will not be heard by sinners who are turned away by our uncaring, inattentive manners.  Courtesy is absolutely necessary if we are to succeed with men on earth and our Father in heaven.  Therefore, let us have a little courtesy, please.

Stacey E. Durham


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