Wednesday, October 19, 2011

1 Peter 2:12: Good Manners, They’re Biblical

I have heard the claim that “good manners” are not taught in the Bible. Obviously that is an extreme statement but lesser forms of this are often used by Christians who would assert that while each culture has its set of norms and standard (and some quite sophisticated in their cultural development) there is no compunction in Scripture which requires us to adopt such cultural forms, thereby releasing us, in our liberty, to live in a manner that is dictated by our conscience through God’s Spirit and His Word. It sounds quite idealistic, quite independent and bold, something some associate with spirituality (come boldly to the throne of grace). But this kind of ignorance really ought not to be common among believers.

The fact is good manners are Biblical. And further one will find that where people have as successfully become both believers and matured, that community elevates its culture.They move from low culture to high culture. They move from low expression to refined expression.But why?

One reason is the directive from God through the hand of Peter who writes in his first letter, (1 Peter 2:12 NASV):

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

The word for excellent is καλήν (kalēn). Other translations are beautiful, honorable and ideal. The concept is not simply moral excellence, though this is quite in view, rather in every area of our lives we are to set the bar far and above pedestrian expectations and seek to elevate all dimensions of our lives so that in very way, shape and form the view from others about us is a people who are regulated by a conscience that is being prescribed to by a source far superior than human, but that of the Divine.

And this is where manners come from within Christian communities. It is the thorough application of this imperative, that we live excellently, beautifully and ideally before others. We escort the weaker because we wish to live excellently and honorably. We give our seats to display deference or respect. We deport ourselves to demonstrate that others may trust us and depend on a clear system of consistent behavior.

Snobbery is not the basis for good manners and a sophisticated social structure which seeks to display all of the virtues of Christian values such as thoughtfulness, patience, goodness, kindness, respect and honor and so on. These may attract people for the wrong reason and sometimes become hijacked by such, but their origins are internal.

Do not hesitate with good manners, they are not snobbery, they are Christian. Good manners display καλήν living, something for which we should always strive.