Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me

September 6, 2019

Are good manners a part of Christian living? I would be the first one to admit that the words in my title are cultural expressions. But behind these cultural expressions are Christian virtues: kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control (see the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23), and gratitude (Luke 17:15-17). Although I see a great deal of courtesy in my own community, it seems in the wider world we see a growing rudeness and hair trigger anger.

Manners do not come as standard operating equipment on children. My parents had to teach them to me. My Great Aunt Mabel made it a point to teach me manners when she could. I’m certain I didn’t always appreciate her lessons as a child, but I can look back with gratitude. One of her lessons was that I was to stand when an adult entered the room in order to greet them. It was years later that I found there was actually a biblical basis for this one: “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:32, ESV). I still feel awkward if I’m not in a position to stand when greeting someone. Parents are civilizing the next generation. Being civilized has nothing to do with the time or country of origin of your birth. It has to do with what you are taught and trained to do.

In the past year, I’ve been hospitalized for 45 days on three occasions and in rehab for 8 days. For much of that time, I wasn’t allowed out of the bed or chair without assistance. I’ve had a lot of dealings with nurses and nursing techs, and I practiced manners and kindness. I realized I wasn’t the only person on the floor, and that pushing the call button might not get an instant response. I tried to plan ahead so that my calls were not urgent. I was cooperative and considerate. I treated them as the medical professionals they are. And do you know what? I was treated with kindness and consideration in return. I was not motivated by that, but we do reap what we sow. (Obviously, there will be exceptions where you will be treated rudely in return, but I think at this time, it will be the exception and not the rule.) I had one nurse say to me: “I had a really bad day yesterday. I’m so glad to have you as a patient today.” And they knew that the way I treated people was because I am a Christian.

In an increasing rude world, good manners motivated by Christian virtues will stand out and be noticed. It will make life more pleasant, and it will make you more pleasant to be around. The “magic words” as some parents call them are still valid: please, thank you, and excuse me.

— Russ Holden


Facing Slander

June 1, 2017

Peter writes, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12, ESV). It would be a mistake to look at this verse through the lens of later state persecutions in the Roman Empire. Our minds shouldn’t conjure up the images of Christians being thrown to the lions or burned as torches in Nero’s garden. The “fiery trial” likely refers to 1:7 and the refiner’s fire that purifies gold.

When we look at the letter in detail, Peter is addressing the problem of Christians facing slander.

  • when they speak against you as evildoers, 2:12
  • by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people, 2:15
  • Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless… 3:9
  • when you are slandered, 3:16
  • they malign you, 4:4
  • If you are insulted for the name of Christ, 4:14

The situation is not so much physical persecution as mental — facing slander. Failure to see this may cause us to minimize the problem of slander while the New Testament takes it very seriously.

What happens when the Christian is slandered for being a Christian? The group slanders to get the Christian to conform to the group’s standards or in other words, the standards of the world. They are attempting to get the Christian to give up his or her faith or so compromise the faith that it no longer offends the prevailing culture. In the circumstances of slander, a Christian will possibly re-evaluate commitment to Christ. The Christian may stand firm, lash back with slander, or stop the slander by conforming to the group.

What lessons do we learn from 1 Peter to help us face slander? First, Peter emphasizes the value of salvation. When we begin to ponder whether living as a Christian is worth it, Peter reminds us of what God has done for us (1 Peter 1:3-12). Salvation is precious.

Second, Peter warns us that pressures will come. We shouldn’t be surprised by it. He forewarns us, so that we are better able to hand it. It is a mistake to think that being a Christian will always be easy.

Finally, Peter cautions us not to retaliate in kind. We will win over the slander, not with slander, but with a quality of life that demonstrates Christ (1 Peter 3:8-4:19).