Tag Archives: Matthew 7:12

Common Courtesy

I am tired of it all.  I am done with being cut off in traffic when the other car entering the flow refuses to ‘zipper’ in,  with being interrupted before I can complete a sentence, with reaching the buffet table and finding empty dishes because the guy in front of me took more than appropriate, with running out of the public park because dog owners de-leash their pets – a cannot tell by its gait that she’s friendly – and with neglecting to bag her poop, with having a door close in my face because the person in front of me sneaks passed the coffee shop door as it closes (as if they are auditioning for “Mission Impossible”) and with the general absence of please and thank you by society.  Call me a curmudgeon if you’d like, but I am desperate for some common courtesy.

In today’s vernacular ‘courtesy’ is synonymous ‘free’ or ‘extra’ – courtesy calls from a service provider, courtesy vans from the auto body shop or courtesy phones found in hotel lobbies.  But its original meaning had more to do with characteristics of politeness and manners.  It is this latter definition that I miss in today’s interactions; I miss males acting as gentlemen and females acting as ladies.  At some point in my lifetime, our culture shifted and began valuing entitlement and individual rights over mutual respect and civility.  Many of the lessons I learned in elementary school – the practices of sharing, waiting one’s turn and refraining from unkind comments – are summarily ignored by a large segment of our population.

We need to be reminded of the words of Jesus:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.  Matthew 7:12

This sentence, commonly called “The Golden Rule”, is perhaps the second most familiar statement of Christ (the first being John 3:16).  God Incarnate told His followers nearly 2,000 years ago that we are to treat other people the way we want to be treated.  With a greater or lesser degree of success, we all have been wrestling with our obedience to this command since it was first uttered.  We attempt to work the angles, balancing our needs with the needs of others, often failing because we resolve the tension with faulty math: if I hold the door for one or two people, those two turn into an untold number; I then end up at the end of the line and face delays that no one should be required to face; therefore, I cannot hold the door for you.  My needs are paramount.

But when everyone makes similar computations, and I fear that this is our present reality, Jesus’ words are ignored and no one is treated they way they want to be treated.  Everyone does what they want and common courtesy is but a relic of the past, like hand-written letters and house calls.  All is not lost, however, and God’s word will never return empty: if a few of us choose courtesy and champion kindness, the culture can change over time.   Join me in following the golden rule; it might encourage other to do the same toward you.

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash  

 

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Drifting Off Course

As I was shoveling last week, I lost something amidst the snow for a moment.  I was not immediately aware of what happened at that moment, but thankfully, I quickly recognized what was happened and was able to restore, mostly, what had been lost.  The troubling fact about this encounter with nature was that it was not my keys or my phone that I lost; it was my character.  Through an interaction with a cranky neighbor, my fleshly nature was revealed and my witness as a follower of Christ was trampled.  In a moment, I went from being a light to the world to being dim-witted.

All I remember about the interaction is his question: “Would you like it if they threw snow onto your property?  You think you’re entitled.”  Aside from the fact that I have no property to speak of, he exposed my lapse of judgement.  I was justifying myself with the thought that this other neighbor, whose space I was piling my shoveling onto, did not have a car.  I was rationalizing my actions as a response to the fact that the street had yet to be plowed and my small increase in the drift would be addressed by the city’s plow.  Still, my neighbor was right.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.   Matthew 7:12

I was not treating my neighbor the way I would want to be treated.  I was not reflecting the nature that the Spirit of God had given me when Christ saved my sorry state and transformed my selfish soul.  Fortunately, in the midst of the interaction, I realized my error and removed my additions to the drift and, as an act of contrition, enlarged my neighbor’s walkway.  It did not go unnoticed by my cranky neighbor; we swapped apologies (turns out he was unable to get an oil delivery and temporarily lost his heat) and I offered him a space-heater (which he appreciated but declined).  He was gracious enough to repair my reputation, for which I praise God.

This whole episode has served as a reminder that a single moment of weakness can demolish a structure that took years to build.  An angry word or a thoughtless action can compromise anyone’s integrity; our inner strength – our character – can be damaged and, if not addressed promptly, ultimately destroyed.   We, who are commissioned by Christ to be His witnesses in the world, must routinely assess our actions and attitudes and perform the hard work of confession when our testimony is tarnished and about to be torn down.

As I stood outside the other night, in the snow, I thought about ‘doubling-down’: I thought about defending myself by deflecting my bad behavior with (justifiable) excuses for ignoring the “Golden Rule”.  I would have felt better in the moment, but would have felt regret for a long time after.  I thank God that He guides me, even when I stray, so that I can return to the path that leads me, and others, into His presence.  And I thank God that I found that path the other night in the snow.