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A Call to Common Courtesy


A Call to Common Courtesy 

Love is not rude.

                                                    1 Corinthians 13:5

Jesus always knocks before entering.

He doesn’t have to. He owns your heart.

If anyone has the right to barge in, Christ does.

But he doesn’t. That gentle tap you hear? It’s Christ.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev. 3:20 nasb).

And when you answer, he awaits your invitation to cross the threshold.

See the passenger at gate 26? The fellow looking at the ticket agent with the basset-hound eyes? That’s me. Yeah, I know, you can’t see very well. DFW Airport is packed. Pass out antennae and extra sets of legs, and you’d have a human anthill. We’re all over each other.

It’s Canada’s fault. A front from the north blasted the Midwest, freezing O’Hare and blowing a thousand itineraries to the wind, including mine.

 When the plane finally disgorged us, we raced through the concourse like WalMart shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving. Pity anything or anyone in our paths. How else were we supposed to make our connections? Even with perfect weather I’d barely catch the final flight of the day to San Antonio.

That explains my hangdog look. I’m pouring what little charm I have on the kind but hassled ticket agent. The plane is overbooked, and she holds my future in her hands. What will she give me—a boarding pass or a hotel voucher?

“Are there any seats left?” I’m winking, but she doesn’t notice. I’m sliding a twenty in her direction, but she doesn’t see it. She just looks at the screen and sighs, “I’m afraid . . .”

Afraid? Afraid of what?!

“Afraid you’ll have to spend the night in the men’s room.” “Afraid the only seat left is in the last row, between two sumo wrestlers.”

“Afraid you’re milking this illustration like a dairy cow, and if you don’t get to the point of the chapter, I’ll route you through Afghanistan.”

But she said none of these. Want to know how she completed the sentence? (Here, take a tissue. You’ll be moved.)

“I’m afraid there are no more seats in coach. We are going to have to bump you up to first class. Do you mind if we do that?”

“Do you mind if I kiss you?” So I boarded the plane and nestled down in the wide seat with the extra leg room and smiled like a prisoner on early parole. Not only was I going home, I was going home in style. I leaned back my head, closed my eyes, and . . .

“Hey! Hey! Lady!” My eyes opened. Two rows in front of me a fellow was standing. A short fellow. Didn’t need to watch his head to stand up straight. Did need to watch his tone, however. He was rude.

“How does a guy get an extra pillow around here? And what about my drink? My wife and I paid extra to fly first-class. I am accustomed to better attention. I want some service!”

It’s not like the flight attendants had nothing to do, mind you. There was the simple matter of making sure the doors were closed and the bins were shut so this already-hour-late flight could lift off. You’d think a fellow could wait on his pillow and Scotch. Not this guy. After all, as we all knew, he had paid extra to fly first-class.

Which may explain the difference between his behavior and mine. I’m not always a good example, but that night I was a poster child for courtesy. You weren’t hearing me grumble. I wasn’t complaining. No demands from the window seat in row four. I was just happy to be on board. Mr. Got-toHave-It-Now may have paid for his place. Not me. Mine was a free gift.

And it wasn’t the first. God gave me one long before the airlines did. Talk about an upgrade! Not just coach to first class. How about sinner to saint, hellbent to heavenbound, confused to clarified, guilty to justified? If anyone has been bumped up, I have. I’m not only heading home, I’m heading home in style. And I didn’t pay a cent. Nor have any of God’s children.

But do we sometimes act as if we did? Do we sometimes behave like the pillowless prima donna in the first row? Think about his request for a moment. Was it unreasonable? No. A pillow is part of the flight package. What he requested was understandable. The way he requested it, however, was not.

His timing was poor; he could have waited a few moments. His tone was harsh; the flight attendants didn’t deserve condescension. His agenda was selfish. He didn’t just want a pillow; he wanted to be the center of attention.

The Bible has a four-letter word for such behavior: rude. When defining what love is not, Paul put rudeness on the list. “It is not rude” (1 Cor.

13:5 NIV).

The Greek word for rude means shameful or disgraceful behavior.

An example of rudeness was recently taken before the courts in Minnesota. A man fell out of his canoe and lost his temper. Though the river was lined with vacationing families, he polluted the air with obscenities. Some of those families sued him. He said, “I have my rights.”

God calls us to a higher, more noble concern. Not “What are my rights?” but “What is loving?”

Do you have the right to dominate a conversation? Yes, but is it loving to do so?

Do you have the right to pretend you don’t hear your wife speaking? I suppose so. But is it loving?

Is it within your rights to bark at the clerk or snap at the kids? Yes. But is it loving to act this way?

Denalyn has a right to park in the center of the garage. Which she used

to do quite often. I’d open the garage door and see her car overlapping half her space and half mine. My response was always a good-natured hint. “Denalyn,” I’d say as I entered the house, “some car is taking up its half of the garage in the middle.”

Maybe I said it more firmly one day. Perhaps my tone wasn’t as chipper. I honestly don’t know what happened, but she began parking on her side. I overheard my daughter ask her why she had quit parking in the middle. “Is it that big of a deal, Mom?”

“It’s not that big to me. But it seems to be big to your dad. And if it matters to him, it matters to me.”

Wasn’t that courteous? Wasn’t that Christlike? Perhaps you’ve never placed the word courteous next to Christ. I hadn’t until I wrote this chapter.

But you know how you never notice double-cab red trucks until your friend says he wants one—then you see a dozen of them? I had never thought much about the courtesy of Christ before, but as I began looking, I realized that Jesus makes Emily Post look like Archie Bunker.

He always knocks before entering. He doesn’t have to. He owns your heart. If anyone has the right to barge in, Christ does. But he doesn’t. That gentle tap you hear? It’s Christ. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev. 3:20 NASB). 

And when you answer, he awaits your invitation to cross the threshold.

That’s how he treated the two disciples on the Emmaus road. The resurrected Jesus didn’t presume on their hospitality. When they entered the house, he didn’t follow. Only when they “urged” him to enter, did he do so (Luke 24:29 NIV). Astounding! Only days before, he had died for their sin. Only hours before, he had defeated their death. Every angel in the universe would gladly be his doormat, but Jesus, ever the gentleman, walks with no swagger.

And when he enters, he always brings a gift. Some bring Chianti and daisies. Christ brings “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). And, as he stays, he serves. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45 NIV). If you’re missing your apron, you’ll find it on him. He’s serving the guests as they sit (John 13:4–5). He won’t eat until he’s offered thanks, and he won’t leave until the leftovers are put away (Matt. 14:19–20).

He is courteous enough to tell you his name (Exod. 3:15) and to call you by yours (John 10:3). And when you talk, he never interrupts. Ever been to a doctor who is so busy that he prescribes the medicine before he hears your problem? Jesus isn’t like that. He could be. He “knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:8 NIV). He also knows what you’ve done before you ask him for forgiveness. “Nothing in all creation can hide from him. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes” (Heb. 4:13 NLT). A God of lesser courtesy would stop you midsentence with reminders of your past foibles. Not Christ. He is not rude. He listens.

He is even on time. Never late. Never early. If you’re checking your watch, it’s because you’re on a different itinerary. “There is a time for everything” (Eccles. 3:1). And Christ stays on schedule.

He even opens doors for you. Paul could preach at Troas because “the Lord had opened a door” (2 Cor. 2:12 NIV). When I asked my dad why men should open doors for women, his answer was one word: “respect.” Christ must have abundant respect for you.

He knocks before he enters. He always brings a gift. Food is served. The table is cleared. Thanks are offered. He knows your name and tells you his, and here is one more.

He pulls out the chair for you. “He raised us up with Christ and gave us a seat with him in the heavens” (Eph. 2:6).

My wife has a heart for single moms. She loves to include a widow or divorcée at the table when we go to a restaurant. Through the years I’ve noticed a common appreciation from them. They love it when I pull out their chair. More than once they have specifically thanked me. One mom in particular comes to mind. “My,” she blushed, brushing the sudden moisture from her eye, “it’s been a while since anyone did that.”

Has it been a while for you as well? People can be so rude. We snatch parking places. We forget names. We interrupt. We fail to show up. Could you use some courtesy? Has it been a while since someone pulled out your chair?

Then let Jesus. Don’t hurry through this thought. Receive the courtesy of Christ. He’s your groom. Does not the groom cherish the bride? Respect the bride? Honor the bride? Let Christ do what he longs to do.

For as you receive his love, you’ll find it easier to give yours. As you reflect on his courtesy to you, you’ll be likely to offer the same.

Did you notice the first five letters of the word courteous spell court? In old England, to be courteous was to act in the way of the court. The family and servants of the king were expected to follow a higher standard.

So are we. Are we not called to represent the King? Then “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16 NIV).

Occasionally our staff members wear shirts that bear the name of our church. On one such day a staffer needed a special pan, and she phoned around until she located it in a store across town. She endured a long drive through heavy traffic only to encounter a gruff store clerk, who told her they no longer carried the product. The staff member started to return tacky with tacky but then remembered she was wearing the shirt—and she changed her behavior.

The truth is, we are all wearing a shirt. “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:27 NIV). We wear Jesus. And those who don’t believe in Jesus note what we do. They make decisions about Christ by watching us. 

When we are kind, they assume Christ is kind. When we are gracious, they assume Christ is gracious. But if we are brash, what will people think about our King? When we are dishonest, what assumption will an observer make about our Master? No wonder Paul says, “Be wise in the way you act with people who are not believers, making the most of every opportunity. 

When you talk, you should always be kind and pleasant so you will be able to answer everyone in the way you should” (Col. 4:5–6). Courteous conduct honors Christ.

It also honors his children. When you surrender a parking place to someone, you honor him. When you return a borrowed book, you honor the lender. When you make an effort to greet everyone in the room, especially the ones others may have overlooked, you honor God’s children.

In his book Handyman of the Lord, William Borders tells the story of a black man whose poverty had left him begging for food. Ringing the front doorbell at a Southern mansion, the man was told to go around to the back, where he would be given something to eat. The owner of the mansion met him on the back porch and said, “First we will bless the food.

Repeat after me, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven . . .’”

The hungry man replied, “Your Father, who art in heaven . . .”

“No,” the owner of the house corrected. “Our Father who art in heaven . . .”

Still the beggar said, “Your Father who art in heaven . . .”

Frustrated, the giver of the food asked, “Why do you insist on saying ‘your Father’ when I keep telling you to say ‘our Father’?”

The man answered, “If I say ‘our Father,’ that would make you and me brothers, and I’m afraid the Lord wouldn’t like it, you askin’ your brother to come to the back porch to get a piece of bread.”

Common courtesy honors God and his children. “Do your best to live

in peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). Just do your best. You can’t control their attitude, but you can manage yours. Besides, just look where you are sitting. You could’ve been bumped off. Instead, you’ve been bumped up. So loosen up and enjoy the journey. You are going home in style.

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