Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:1-7).

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:9, 10).

Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought… (Philippians 2:3-5a; CEV).

Last Sunday in church school, a member of the class talked about driving in Atlanta on the crowded interstate. She remarked how Christian it was that drivers on the highway let those on the ramps merge easily. Without that kindness, she noted, no one would ever get on the interstate.

She has a point, doesn’t she? For so much in our lives, we depend on the courtesy and good will of others like our neighbors, co-workers, strangers or families. Whether it’s driving on a congested highway or doing a task at home or at work or expressing an opinion which we believe is worthy of someone’s attention, we want to be treated with fairness and dignity, regarded as important.

Sadly, courtesy and civility, even toward members of our own family, is in short supply these days. How often have we lamented the loudmouth on his or her cell at the movie or in the grocery store? How many times while driving has someone cut us off or pulled out in front of us? How many teens feel ignored by their parents? How many spouses don’t listen to each other or treat each other with respect, much less love?  How about those churches that don’t regard other communities of faith as Christian? And of course, political and religious discourse in this nation has descended to such depths of nastiness that I wonder if we will ever recover any semblance of  caring for the interests and concerns of those with whom we disagree.

So, yes, being courteous is indeed Christian. In fact, it may even be subversive of the dominant culture. The tests cited above make it clear that courtesy, by whatever name (showing honor, regarding others as more important) is the essence of Christian ethics and action. And it all starts with one person daring to act with kindness and civility toward another, maybe even while driving on the interstate.

© 2012 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.