Class is out and crass is in. Protocol and propriety, etiquette and good manners are often viewed as stuffy, old–fashioned and “uncool.” Rudeness, vulgarity and sloppiness are considered up–to–date, normal and “cool” by a growing number of people in any nation you want to consider. You might remember the old Gillette razor blade commercial that said we should “look sharp, feel sharp, and be sharp.” That’s a good principle, but it is a ridiculed concept today. But “cool” or “uncool” aside, the question is: Is classiness Christian? Do good manners and God’s way fit together?
God inspired Peter to write: “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (I Pet. 2:17). That doesn’t sound like crassness and rudeness! That sounds like proper respect and good manners are important. But how do we apply this verse now, in modern times? Where do manners fit in in everyday life?
Nearly anywhere food is served—a school cafeteria, a restaurant, a family gathering—you’ll see people who are smacking and slurping, eating with their mouths open or with their hands, or all of the above. Isn’t it much more pleasant to sit down to a meal with people who understand and practice good manners? We should uphold right standards even when the world doesn’t, and that includes using good manners.
Children are not born knowing about table manners or etiquette. They don’t automatically know how to be a class act. When the Bible says train up a child in the way he should go, that involves every facet of life including manners, etiquette and class. They have to be taught all these things.
In Revelation 19:7–9 we read about a spectacular meal: “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.”
Can you envision sitting down at this tremendous meal with Jesus Christ? Can you imagine crassness, crudeness or bad manners at this glorious supper? Never! Rather, there will be good manners, propriety and respect toward everyone there. The conduct of everyone at that meal will be dignified and of the highest standards, and there will be rejoicing and happiness.
Butting in, interrupting and talking continually are commonplace in many circles. When you honestly think about it, that is selfish and rude. Being loud, uncouth and bragging about oneself is not only rude, it’s just plain boring. Having a conversation involving give and take is so much better. That is what interesting, stimulating and respectful communication is all about: “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (I Pet. 3:4).
This doesn’t mean you never talk. Just sitting there, never engaging in exchange is impolite, too. But loud, obnoxious, interrupting speech is not courteous, and it is not classy. A polite person will not force himself on a conversation, but will try to draw others in and include everyone.
Courteous, mannerly and friendly actions while driving are rare. How do you react when somebody gets right on your bumper? Tailgating is dangerous, irritating and unnecessary—and it endangers everyone concerned. You can’t force others to stop tailgating, but you can avoid doing it yourself.
What about when you are changing lanes? To signal your intentions so others can decide what they ought to do is a vital part of polite, helpful and safe driving. Have you ever seen anybody hog the passing lane? They’ll get in the passing lane and that’s where they stay. What if everybody drove that way?
Speeding is so commonplace that some do not even think it is wrong, yet it is actually very disrespectful of others. You become a danger on the road when you speed, not only to yourself, but also to other drivers and pedestrians.
As Christians we are supposed to show love to our neighbor and respect for constituted authority: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1). We may not always agree with them, but we must uphold lawful authority. This approach is starting to break down, and if it continues, we will have anarchy as the ultimate outcome.
If we’re told to break one of God’s laws, we do not do that even if it means being penalized. However, our attitude as Christians is one of respecting authority and those in authority. That’s the protocol. That’s good manners. That’s proper etiquette.
Saying, “Yes ma’m”, “yes sir”, “thank you” and “please” is practicing good manners. Opening the door for everybody and anybody and especially for ladies and the elderly is polite and proper. In waiting rooms and on buses, when women or elderly people come along, the proper thing to do is get up and say, “Ma’am, would you like to sit here?”, or “Sir, here is a seat.”
We should exercise common courtesy at all times. Answer the phone cheerfully, and think about the message your voicemail greeting is sending. Our writing should be done with respect, politeness and etiquette. Be careful not to write a letter or email when you’re mad. You could say things that you’ll never be able to take back because it’s all in print.
Several phrases and words need to make a comeback. Things like “excuse me” and mean it, “pardon me” and be sincere about it, “may I help you?” and feel that way about it. Is all of this biblical?
Peter seemed to have unusual insight into this subject of manners: “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous...” (I Pet. 3:8). How many people do you know today who are courteous and polite to everybody, even to those who are not polite back? Courtesy and manners show love to others.
We can’t solve all of the world’s problems, but we can help a little here and a little there. It may go completely unnoticed, or it may have an impact in ways we do not realize: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house” (Matt. 5:14–15).
A friendly smile, a caring look—God is pleased with that, and He will bless us for it even though others might resent it or not even notice it. Some will notice and be helped by it: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (v. 16).
We are representing God the Father, which is an awesome responsibility as well as an honor. We’re personal representatives of God the Father and His way of life in the world, wherever we go. Don’t you think He wants us to have class and protocol? And we can do so without being snobby, stuffy and phony about it.
Just study the responsibility of being a good and effective ambassador of the United States of America in a foreign country. It’s not just a cushy gig! If it’s done right, being an ambassador is a very demanding job. Good and faithful ambassadors properly exemplify their country. They represent their government and reflect their leaders. They are classy and show respect for other people. They’re not crude or coarse. They’re not vulgar or rude.
Remember, we are ambassadors for Jesus Christ. That means people are not going to see Jesus Christ or hear Jesus Christ, but they will see us and hear us! Therefore they should see some of Him and hear some of Him through us.
As ambassadors for Jesus Christ, we must be all that any respected ambassador would be in today’s society. But because we are ambassadors for Jesus Christ, not only should we be like good ambassadors in today’s world, we should go above and beyond worldly standards by taking protocol to a much higher level. God the Father and Jesus Christ require us to have manners and class, which are just terms for right conduct
Right and proper manners are a must, and required of every Christian. Evil actions, rude words and crude behavior only besmirch good manners and must be avoided at all cost: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” (I Cor. 15:33). A clear cut example and admonition for practicing good manners in every situation, comes from Jesus Christ Himself: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12).
In other words, mind your manners at all times!
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