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The Grace of God is in Courtesy

It is evident wherever one looks today that there is a blatant disregard and lack of the most elementary forms of courtesy and good manners in the world around us.

Teenagers sass their parents, disrespect lawful authority, exhibit filthy language and hand-signs to passers-by. Only yester­day my little ones saw some of this crude behavior and wanted to know why those boys acted that way. They stand on the sidewalks and even in the streets and re­fuse to let pedestrians and automobiles pass. They are out to give anybody and every­body a difficult time. Every one of you, I’m sure, could give many examples of similar incidents that have occurred in your own lives.

Even younger children today are just as discourteous as their older brothers and sisters. They have vile tongues spewing out all forms of wickedness and corruption. Their actions are impolite and inconsiderate. They demand the whole world but deserve a slap in the face or a warm behind. They pretend that the whole world owes them a living. “Thank you,” “Pardon me,” “ex­cuse me,” “please,” never grace their tender — not so tender? — lips.

Finally, even grown-ups, who should be examples, are not the least inclined to be courteous. They openly backbite and gos­sip about others in front of their children — as if backbiting and gossiping aren’t bad enough in themselves. They talk disparag­ingly about law officers, the President, con­gressmen, ministers, and teachers. They openly disrespect speed laws and civil laws showing no respect or courtesy to authority.

In the world, this lack of courtesy is due to the depravity and selfishness of man. They run their life on the theory that you don’t need road manners if you drive a five ton truck.

Wicked man is completely “I” centered. “I need this,” “I want that,” “I’m going to get this,” “I’m going to do that.” They have no thought for the feelings or possessions of others and if these get in the way — too bad. They render evil for evil not only, but also evil for good. They cheat, they lie, they steal, they violate all the com­mandments to attain their goals and ob­jectives. One prime example of this is seen in the unreasonable law suits that are brought against individuals and companies in our civil courts. They experience no shame, remorse, or compassion as they push their weight around and make themselves heard.

Man lost the ability to be “God centered.” In all of his life he is at enmity with God and with his neighbor. Since there is no love for God in him, neither does he have any love towards his neighbor. His hatred towards others is revealed in his disrespect towards them.

This is the world in which we live. Much, much more could be written and said. We must be careful that we are not carried along with the basic philosophy of the world in its headlong dash to destruction.

The apostle Peter writes, “Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of an­other, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise, blessing, knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (I Peter 3:8-9). We must be “. . . holy in all manner of conversation (life) because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy” (I Peter 1:15-16). Paul in Romans 15:2 admonishes, “Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.”

Courtesy is the desire and attempt to be thoughtful, polite, good mannered, consid­erate for the feelings, persons, and property of others and is rooted in love. “Charity suffereth long and is kinde, charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil” (I Cor. 13:4-5). When we love one another for Christ’s sake, we show courtesy and respect toward each other. True righteous courtesy implies that we give of ourselves for the welfare and respect of others.

True courtesy can only result when pride and love for oneself is rooted out and replaced by a humble attitude and love for others. Thus, only a child of God can, in the ultimate sense of courtesy, be courteous.

We by nature are, however, no better than the world. We also have the “I” com­plex. Our teenagers, youngsters, and we as adults are no different than the world. We are, on occasion, not only inclined to show this disrespect towards each other and our neighbors on the street, but also towards God and towards His house. When we irreverently sleep during the service, let our minds wander off during the preaching of His Holy Word, think of material pos­sessions and covet them during our prayers, unrighteously judge our brothers in the pews, our love for God comes into ques­tion.

If we truly loved one another for Christ’s sake, we would have no gossiping and backbiting in our churches. If we truly loved our parents for Christ’s sake, we would respect their authority and treat them courteously. When we walk a life of love we “guard our lips from speaking guile” and our tongue from strife. We “follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).

We must be courteous for Christ’s sake. He came down to earth and revealed to us the greatest act of love and courtesy this world has ever known by giving Him­self for our redemption. He became like us in all things, sin excepted. He ex­perienced our frailties and infirmities, our trials and temptations, our anxieties and fears. He lived with our hatred and spite, our contempt and scorn, our thoughtless­ness and disrespect. Yet His “courtesy” (love) toward us is everlasting, totally of grace. His kindness is more infinite than the universe. His thoughtfulness (for we are ever in His thoughts) toward us is greater than the deepest oceans. His gift of in­finite mercy and salvation is beyond our comprehension.

An Englishman, Hilaire Belloc, contem­plating the sublime value of courtesy once wrote:

“Of courtesy — it is much less

Than courage of heart or holiness.

Yet in my walks it seems to me

That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.”