In the striving to achieve any goal there always comes a point when we question ourselves, “How badly do you want this?” We all reach a point where exertion becomes necessary in order to conform to all we had hoped would be.
Truly nothing just happens. We are faced with a choice to strive or to merely survive. I ask you, dear lady, how badly do you want to see well-mannered children in your home? Then dig into the Word and study the character of Christ and see the pattern you will use in training your son or daughter. How badly do you want that vibrant relationship with God? Then you must covet your time alone with the Master and record what you learn in your private sessions with Him realizing that the God of the Universe is instructing you. You must dig deeply into the well of wisdom as if you sought for silver and gold. (Have you ever dug a hole, just a hole, not a mine? It is a massive struggle. Then why do we think our Bible study should be a breeze?) How badly do you want a healthy body? Then your wants must take second place to your needs. Sweat must reign over sloth.
How badly do you want to excel in these areas? That question can only be answered by you. However, the goal is worthy and the Maker of the course is deserving of our greatest efforts. How will you answer for “a course well walked”? Our will must be reined and our thoughts, bodies, efforts and habits conformed to the direction of that will.
Our desire to see young men and women of character comes with a price tag paid by those who have been given the job of instructing them. Mother, you must display consideration, courtesy, and collectedness if you desire to see it reflected back to you in the lives of your children. Please read carefully the book of Ephesians and see that it begins with you and it begins in your very heart. Then realize that you must daily strive, with firm consistency, to mold your youth into the men and women they must be for the glory of God.
And now, let us continue our discussion of, “As Becometh Saints: Etiquette in Ephesians.” (You can read Part One Here.)
3. The Definition of Etiquette
Truly, proper etiquette is simply living out the gospel message through your words and actions. It is a system of living that places others above oneself. It is an attitude of humility and generosity. It is living after the pattern of Christ. “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” (Eph. 4:2)
4. The Heart of the Matter
It is not my goal at all to give you a list of “do’s” and “don’ts”, but rather to challenge you to look inside to the real heart of the matter: your heart. The teaching of Jesus to, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”, contains the very life and soul of politeness. As Mrs. Maria Child wrote, “Children may be taught to make a graceful courtesy, or a gentlemanly bow, –but unless they have likewise been taught to abhor what is selfish, and always prefer another’s comfort and pleasure to their own, their politeness will be entirely artificial, and used only when it is their interest to use it.”
It is most certainly manly to be considerate of others. I would go so far as to say it is the crowning glory of a man to be known as a gentleman: kind, benevolent, considerate, and temperate. From the excellent book, Gaining Favor with God and Man, I quote, “Civility is to a man what beauty is to a woman; it creates an instantaneous impression in his behalf.” The Bible teaches men to be courteous; to be gentle unto all men; and in honor, preferring one another.” Again I quote, “The Christian gentleman and lady are such because they love their neighbor as themselves; and to be a thorough Christian without being a gentleman or a lady is impossible. He who is pure in heart can never be vulgar in speech, and he who is meek and loving in spirit can never be rude in manners.”
5. The Christian Standard
Deuteronomy 23:14, “For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp…”
Our Holy, Almighty God not only walks in the midst of our lives, but He actually dwells within us. For this reason alone, all we do should be prefaced with the question, “Would God be pleased to dwell here with me”? “Would He respond the way I am responding? Would He treat the people around me as I am treating them?”
Jesus Christ closes a section of His Sermon on the Mount with the command, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) Christian, the standard is high; much higher than any Emily Post or other book of etiquette might instruct. What should guide your actions in social situations is the very Word of God that has been placed in your heart. The message of love for one another, of serving one another and seeking to be like Christ should so fill your heart and mind that proper etiquette, which is none other than actions of love for your fellow man, will flow freely with little thought of “should I? or shouldn’t I? do I? or don’t I?
6. The Christian Duty
Let’s first examine the Christian’s duty as found in Ephesians 4:1, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” Your vocation, your calling of Divine origin, demands that you represent well the God with whom you have to do. Our walk is to reflect the God we serve. Remember the picture of Christ we are shown in Philippians 2:3-8, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” The “gold thread” of the Christian’s life is his duty toward God: to love Him by obeying His commandments and clinging to His Word in faith. (See The Gold Thread, by Scottish Pastor Norman Macleod 1812-1872)
As we walk through the book of Ephesians, we’ll see how many examples are laid out for us in this area of duty. These I’ll list for you, though my list will in no way be exhaustive. According to the text, all our actions should be reflective of our Holy God. (1:4) People are always watching and comparing what we say with what we do.
Knowing that we are accepted in the Beloved, no one should receive our scorn. (1:6)
In verse seven, we rejoice that we are redeemed by HIS BLOOD. We should never take this for granted. Because our hearts and souls forever remember the price that was paid, humility should reign in our hearts and affect all our actions.
How thankful we are that God deals with us in all wisdom and prudence. Likewise, we should deal with those around us in this very same way; prayerfully and cautiously handling people and the situations they present. (1:8) Our very lives should be a prayer, a “sweetsmelling sacrifice” (5:1), reaching the Father’s throne, begging that those that know Him would receive out of the abundance of His riches strength for the inner man, faith of Christ’s indwelling presence, and a grounding in love “which passeth knowledge”, filling us with all the fullness of God. (3:16-19)
Verse thirteen reminds us that our salvation is a result of hearing God’s Word. This truth spurs us on to continue to deliver the precious truth so that others may hear. As students of Christ, we know what we believe by diligently studying the Word of God that has been so freely given to us. (2 Tim. 2:15) What slackers we must appear to be if we cannot even study the one and only Book God has asked us to know! (4:14-15)
Verse fifteen, of chapter one, reminds us that we have a reputation to protect. Paul heard of the faith and love of the brethren and it was an encouragement to him. Likewise, the story of our lives ought to be an encouragement to other Christians. Whether they know us or not, our love and devotion to Christ should clearly show forth in our words and in our deeds. (See also chapter 2:10)
To be continued in the next issue…