Magazine article The Christian Century

Good Manners

Magazine article The Christian Century

Good Manners

Article excerpt

I ONCE TOLD a story from the pulpit about road rage that evoked as much response as anything I have ever said. I told about being in the left lane on Michigan Avenue and needing to move to the center lane and then the fight lane in order to make a fight turn at Chestnut. Simultaenously, a young woman in a BMW was moving from the far right lane to the center. I should have yielded, but I didn't. I accelerated aggressively and took the place. At the light, she pulled up beside me and lowered her window. It seemed she wanted to greet me, so I lowered my window. And she let me have it, in a stream of obscenities. I began to get angry. Only the possibility that she might be a member of my congregation prevented me from responding in kind. Instead, thanks be to God, I smiled and said something innocuous like "Have a nice day." As she drove away, she gave me the one-finger salute.

What a way to start the day! It wasn't that many years ago that her language and gesture would never have been used in public. Nevertheless, I have since concluded that the incident was my fault. I didn't have to lay down the gauntlet by beating her to the spot. I also participated in the lowering of courtesy and general good manners. If I was going to complain, I would have to clean up my own act.

I was reminded of Paul's instructions in table manners found at the end of the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians. There was a lot of conflict and divisiveness in the Corinthian church, and at least part of the problem was the absence of common courtesy. …

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