28 May 2008

Gentility

I had a conversation with a friend and brother in the Lord about kindness. We talked about it in terms of what it is and did we find people, God's people, being kind. I think we fail at kindness. I think there should be a gentility about God's people that should be more apparent. Gentility isn't a word that is often used so I looked it up here: http://www.answers.com/topic/gentility.

Thesaurus: gentility

noun

  1. Well-mannered behavior toward others: civility, courteousness, courtesy, genteelness, mannerliness, politeness, politesse. See courtesy/discourtesy.
  2. People of the highest social level: aristocracy, blue blood, crème de la crème, elite, flower, gentry, nobility, patriciate, quality, society, upper class, who's who. Informal upper crust. See over/under.
Could it be that because we don't care for the second set of synonyms we have abandoned the term and employing its meaning, carelessly discarding the first set?

When I was giving seminars to college students, one of the things I would teach them was etiquette and manners. Good manners have always been associated with intelligence and ability. I was always a little bit surprised at how few of my students could define what it meant to be well mannered. These were great young men and women. They were bright and articulate, but somehow anything beyond learning the basics of saying "Please" and "Thank you" had escaped them. To their credit, they wanted to learn.

Manners consists of more than employing a bit of sugary-sweet niceness. Readers that are old enough will remember Eddie Haskell, who was anything but sincere in his attempts to use charm and manners. Real manners require grace. Lots of grace. The point of manners is the comfort of others. It takes kindness, empathy and the denial of self. All qualities believers should possess in abundance.

My friend correctly diagnosed part of the problem. We are forever comparing our behavior to that of our peers. We are mercurial. We set conditions upon our behavior. When they are nice, we are nice. When we respond tersely to someone, we justify it by their prior treatment of us or the bad day we are having. We will even try to use terms like "righteous anger" or "righteous indignation" to justify our less than cordial demeanor. The problem is our example is Christ, not our peers. Our anger is seldom righteous.

We should be treating others as if they are housing great treasure. The Spirit of God abides in believers but all are created in the Image of God. We should be treating everyone as if they are the elect of God, because we don't know that they are not. We are all made from the same dirt and have the same need for salvation.


Galatians 5:19-26
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
(NAS)




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