Martin Collins focuses upon a list of lapses in etiquette within society and the church, many occurring because of faulty child rearing practices. Children‚s games often imitate violence and murder as well as disrespect for the elderly. The Old Testament makes disrespect for parents a capital offense. Parents sometimes forget that their offspring become mirror images of their own behavior, so they ought to instill in children good manners by guiding them toward positive habits. Parents are obligated to teach God‚s laws to their children. According to Emily Post, good manners are to the family what good morals are to society. Karen Santorum in her book Everyday Graces: A Child's Book of Good Manners urges that parents seize their obligation to cultivate good manners in their children. Because the Church of God is the Kingdom of God in embryo, we are obligated to persevere in a life of holiness.
Martin Collins, in this practical application sermon of etiquette and politeness suggests, that where gentleness and humility exists, the character of Christ is made manifest. Christ's metaphors of snakes (representing caution) and doves (innocence) adds another dimension to Christian etiquette. Politeness is described by following the golden rule in all encounters with other people. Good manners are not just an accomplishment, but a duty that everyone must practice in order for society to move smoothly. Manners are a set of codified laws that bind society together. Becoming a gentleman has nothing to do with economic class consciousness; this approbation exists among the rough and soft alike. A gentleman treats his wife with tenderness publicly and privately. A lady treats her husband with respect even when he has not used good judgment in his treatment of her. Because of the bad manners of Americans, they are losing incrementally the land God has given them. Having perfectly unshakable faithfulness and good manners makes us spiritually healthy and in the stature of Jesus Christ.
Martin Collins asks what we can do to improve our manners or etiquette. Our manners express our personality, especially as they portray humility, courtesy, or gentleness. The apostle Paul indicts all of us as lacking in courtesy before we were called. Now we must display the work of salvation, involving the etiquette and courtesy shown in the behavior of our Savior. Before our calling we did not possess these traits. Afterward, we go through a process of sanctification to develop the fruit of God's Holy Spirit and go on to perfection. Good manners, etiquette, and character may be improved by 1) trying to understand the other person's point of view, 2) paying attention in the little things, 3) making sure we keep our commitments, 4) clarifying what our expectations are, 5) always showing personal integrity, 6) apologizing for failing to keep our word or letting another person down, 7) and showing unconditional love.
Within this parable Christ shows the principle of reciprocity. Just as we have been forgiven a huge, unpayable debt, so must we extend forgiveness to those who owe us, showing that we appreciate what has been done for us.
Focusing upon the rising tide of societal incivility, Richard Ritenbaugh warns that discourtesy and ugly in-your-face attitudes (fruits of the flesh) have also manifested themselves in the greater church of God. These disgusting works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) are exactly the opposite of what God expects of us- the opposite of Agape love. Good manners (minor morals or the small change of virtue) are the fundamentals of love for others and love for God. Unfortunately, good manners and courtesy do not come naturally, but have to be learned and continually practiced. The common denominator of etiquette is to esteem others more and making ourselves less. When we show courtesy to others, we imitate God.
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