Thursday, April 10, 2008

Exhibiting Social Grace

Some wise words from my friend, Gilbert...

The Scriptures talk about three kinds of witness.

1. The witness of our words.
2. The witness of our actions.
3. Our witness as the body of Christ.

Have you ever been in these situations?
  • You go out to eat with friends and one person is really rough with the server? It seems to go beyond the quality of the food. I have been embarrassed by the lack of respect that I have seen some Christians treat those who serve us.
  • You are riding with someone and they cut another off in traffic? Last week, someone followed me out of the church parking lot and I watched them lay on the horn toward another driver. It seemed unwarranted. Would they have been as aggressive if they weren’t so anonymous behind a wheel?
  • What about situations where you thought a simple “Thank you!”, “Please.” or “Excuse me.” would have been the obvious thing to say and it did not happen?
I often wonder where manners went, why we lack social graces in our dealings with others and why we neglect the little things that show respect for the other person. The little things, like a kindness, a smile and common courtesy make such a difference in whether a person enjoys being around us or would rather not. My wife always asks the person doing check out in the grocery store how his or her day is going. Chris says she wants to leave them more encouraged than drained from having spent that moment with her.

Now here is why I am talking about this. We will be more effective witnesses as we reflect Christ in how we treat others. So often people don’t regard our message about Christ because our lifestyle doesn’t match our words. Paul says to the Thessalonians in his first epistle to them. “You know how we lived among you for your sake.” (1:5b) Are we salt and light? Do they see something different in how we treat others?

But more than the witness of our words, our witness as the body of Christ is enhanced when the non-Christian comes into our fellowship. Do they see something different there? Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35. The body mode in our evangelism model is even more strategic today in light of the need for others to belong on the way to believing. With the breakdown of the family, we need to teach the social graces that used to be taught at home. We provide valuable interpersonal skills when we do.

I have been reading a devotional this year, Wisdom for the Way, about selected writings from Chuck Swindoll. In a selection entitled “Helping the World on to God”, Swindoll quotes Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Then Swindoll comments,

“[The world] will see “your good works,” Jesus said. Like what?

They will hear your courtesy.
They will detect your smile.
They will notice that you stop to thank them.
They will hear you apologize when you are wrong.
They will see you help them when they are struggling.
They will notice that you are the one who stopped along the road and gave them a hand.
They will see every visible manifestation of Christ’s life being normally lived out through you. They will see all that and they “will glorify your Father who is in heaven”
We are the ones who help the world on to God.”

I am sure that there are many of you who have some simple messages that teach practical ways to respect others, describes common courtesy and social graces and, generally, what it means to be kind to others. Let’s help each other create ministries that are more inviting places for the non-Christian and, in so doing, our evangelism will be more effective."

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