Uncommon Courtesy

No, this is not a political rant. Nor is it just about the man whose image it bears (although he does spur our examination of the topic). This is about reclaiming Christ-like speech.

A dichotomy has developed in our culture. On one side, “political correctness” and fear of offending in speech are championed to the point that vague words veil any sense of clarity in understanding a position (perhaps this verbose sentence is an example for you). On the flip side of the coin, bluntness reigns. Strong opinion. Quick sound bites. To the point. No concern for offending. “Calling a spade a spade!" 


If you survey the speech of Jesus, you actually find both a sincere sensitivity and a sincere bluntness. The teacher who called Herod “a fox” (Luke 13:32), Peter a “Satan (adversary)" (Matthew 16:23), and publicly reprimanded most of the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites, vipers, and white-washed tombs (Matthew 23)…is the same teacher who warned us about the judgments we make (Matthew 7:1-5), told us that we will be judged for every careless word we speak (Matthew 12:36-37), and chose His few words during His trials and on the cross so carefully that we only read of 7 times that He opened His mouth at all once He was on the hill of Calvary. He also shocked His culture by not engaging in the typical labels and political rhetoric about the Romans, the tax collectors, the Samaritans, the demon-possessed, the disabled, etc. He showed tremendous sensitivity in both actions and words about these groups of people…courtesy toward others that was simply not practiced until He showed up. There’s no contradiction here in the character of Jesus. He always chose His words carefully, even when He came across to some as “blunt” and “harsh.” He only used this language when it was necessary to call out those in positions of influence who needed to be exposed as false in their stewardship and leadership. So love for people was always His motivation…even in His woes on the Jewish leaders. 


What about us? In our actions? In our speech? Well, one thing we know for sure is that it should be well-seasoned. That's the imagery that Paul uses in Colossians 4 - speech seasoned with salt. Such speech is the only kind that carries grace. Titus 3:2 reminds us “to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men.” And the purpose of courtesy, according to Richard Foster, is “to acknowledge others and affirm their worth.” If you want to be effective in your influence and evangelism, you must become a courteous person…beyond just the shallow greetings...and not just with those who also treat you with courtesy (Matthew 5:47). An appropriate time to call someone a snake may arise. But those are the exceptions…not the rule…in our interactions. Remember that genuine “kindness” is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5). Be honest. But be courteous. And always choose your words carefully. 


To His Glory, 

Caleb Cochran


Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Foter.com / CC BY-SA