The lack of courtesy between Christians is a trend that troubles me a great deal. Common courtesy, it seems to me, is not as common as it should be. Of all the people in the world that should understand, exercise, and expect common courtesy for and from each other, we brothers and sisters in Christ should.
Too many confuse and substitute being nice for being courteous. They are not the same thing. Some of the nicest people in the world will not carry on a courteous, substantive conversation beyond the exchange of polite pleasantries. Some of the nicest people do not courteously return phone calls or answer emails as needed, if ever. Some uncourteously answer uncomfortable questions with gestures or generalities to avoid getting into what they see as, and what may be, difficult issues. Some uncourteously have very little, if any, awareness of how their words and actions are affecting others. (And some Christians are neither nice nor courteous. They tend to just be flat rude all the way around.)
One way in which I have experienced the starkest lack of courtesy is in dealing with pastor search committees. In my experience, the vast majority of them have responded to my resume submission with only dead silence, offering no acknowledgments or updates, giving no consideration to the life-shaping decisions I am making. (And I know I am not alone in this, because I have heard the same complaint from other pastors.) I have no doubt that many people on search committees think that they can’t be expected to answer every resume. My response? Yes, you can. Look beyond the paper and ink, and see your brother in Christ who has other options to consider, as well as a family to take care of. Appreciate him, acknowledge him, and update him, especially if you are not going to consider him for your next pastor.
Courtesy should not be seen as a fringe issue. It is central in what we call the Golden Rule from Jesus: "Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them" (Luke 6:31 HCSB). Of course, we know that is just Jesus’ different way of stating what He says is the second greatest commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31 HCSB). So, as I want my phone calls returned and emails answered in a timely manner, I should do so for you as an act of love. As I want your full attention on an important issue I might need to discuss with you, I should give mine to you as an act of love. As I want acknowledged in making contact and updated in making decisions, I should do so for you as an act of love. For whoever does not instinctively understand this, we need to make this part of basic discipleship.
I have gotten the sense from some that we should be giving each other a pass on this - that we should be more relaxed with each other on this issue, not expecting as much effort put into it as we might put into it with outsiders. This reminds me of the way some people drop their manners when they walk in the front doors of their homes, thinking of them as mere formalities to be used with everyone but their families. The fact is that my wife should be able to expect me to treat her better than I do anyone else. Likewise, we brothers and sisters in Christ should reserve the highest level of courtesy for each other.
By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
~Jesus (John 13:35 HCSB)
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