It will come as no surprise to you that
contemporary American society embodies an age of informality.
Tradition and protocol are generally considered archaic,
belonging to generations long past. Fads, whether in fashion,
recreation, diet or even language idioms, come and go. However,
these indicators of restless change reflect the underlying and
increasing lawlessness that’s tolerated at all levels of
The “Law”, or instruction and
teachings of our God, will never be outmoded! He made known His
ways as a peaceable and interrelational means for people to
exist considerately with one another.
We followers of Jesus, and those within
our families, have been called out of the world’s ME-centered system.
We’ve been called into a Kingdom in which we mirror our Lord and King
in the way we relate to each other and to the rest of the
humanity He has created. How we
treat one another flows out of our character in Christ as His
Spirit works in and through us.
Informality, in itself, isn’t the
opposite of Christ-like character. Nowhere in Scripture are we
presented with a Jesus Who is stuffy, dull or removed from
common relational interaction. However, when lawlessness is at the root
of interaction, casual familiarity crosses the line into
When Christ is set apart in your heart,
your conscience is clear, your conduct is righteous, and your
attitude toward others — even those who slander you and
impute wrongful motives — is humble and available to
serve His purpose:
But treat the Messiah as holy, as Lord in your hearts; while remaining always ready to give a reasoned
answer to anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in
you — yet with humility and
fear, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are spoken against, those who abuse
the good behavior flowing from your
union with the Messiah may be put
to shame (1 Peter 3:15,16).
In this Lifebyte we’ll discuss a
variety of areas in which we followers of Jesus should be
mindful to intentionally represent our Lord in our interaction with others. In
essence, we’ll be talking about Christ-like etiquette. The
foundation to good manners isn’t found in what you do, but
flows out of the motive of your
So how should we behave in all our
dealings with other people? Our Lord Jesus was precise and
straightforward in His command:
you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and
the Prophets (Matthew 7:12).
As He made clear, every command and prophecy from the Hebrew Scripture is summed up as an interrelational
responsibility that’s carried
out among one another for the good of each. This response
isn’t haphazard; otherwise, your baser emotions will kick
in and irritation or self-interest will prompt unChrist-like
Jesus is commanding each of us to consider with forethought how we will go about interacting with others. To have
Christ-like manners — consideration
for others — will
require you to develop His motive and behavior.
How do Christ-like
manners translate into
practice? Consider these examples:
kindness to others out of concern
for their well-being;
respect for someone else’s
feelings and dignity even if you disagree with them over some
admitting when you’re wrong
and asking forgiveness for hurt caused by your error;
awareness that each person is made
in the image of God and is someone for whom Jesus died.
Good manners mean the consideration you
grant someone because our Lord
Jesus loved and died for them. And,
as His ambassador, you owe that person nothing less in your
regard for him or her. If you are following Jesus
wholeheartedly, please anchor this truth:
You are the physical representative
of Jesus, and your good manners — your expression of His concern
for others —attest
to the work
He has done in your heart.
Others appraise your walk with Jesus not
only by your faith
but by your treatment of them.
In this Lifebyte we’re going to
propose some “social halakhahs” for you to consider in your interaction
with others. Please STOP and discuss EACH ONE with your family and extended spiritual family.
If you don’t agree with ours, then please develop your
own to become a way of life that befits the character of Jesus! But,
don’t go on in life without Christ-like manners—consideration shown through your heart, mind,
hands and mouth — in the
areas we suggest.
Being On Time
“King David said to Amasa,
‘Summon the men of Judah to come to me within three days,
and be here yourself.’ But when Amasa went to summon
Judah, he took longer than the time the king had set for him” (2 Samuel 20:4,5).
King David had commanded General Amasa to
assemble the army in three days. Amasa delayed and failed to
meet his king’s appointed time. The end result of setting
his own agenda over that of the one who had the right to set
the time frame? Another general raised up the army and killed
the distracted Amasa.
One of the most valuable habits you can
acquire is that of being on time. Promptness and responsibility go hand in hand. Therefore, a habitual lack of
punctuality must be considered irresponsibility.
Being on time shows your respect for other
people. On the other hand, when you habitually keep others
waiting, you are displaying your disregard for them. You create
unnecessary apprehension as they wonder if perhaps
they’ve gotten the day or time wrong, and you make it
more difficult for others to trust you as a person of your
If for some unforeseen reason you’re
going to be late, call as soon as you can to let them know.
You’re showing them the consideration that frees them to
be about other things in their life.
If you’re invited to someone
else’s home for a sitdown meal, ask if they plan to serve
it immediately upon your arrival. Why is this helpful for you
to know? If you have a family and the meal isn’t going to
be served right away, make sure you and/or your children
don’t arrive so hungry that eating is all you can think
Time To Go
“The wisdom that comes from heaven
is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive,
full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).
If you’re an invited guest in
someone’s home, it’s important that you know when
you should leave. The aim of any host is to ensure that their
guests feel welcome and enjoy themselves. But, be sure you don’t
weary your host or hostess by outstaying that welcome!
We’ve heard of guests who didn’t pick up on the
signals and the exhausted host finally commented, “Please
turn the lights off when you leave!”
When it’s time to leave, thank your
hosts, and then say good-bye. Don’t bring up a new
conversation or otherwise dawdle and delay. Just smile and go.
Courtesy Toward Older People
in the presence of the aged,
show respect for the elderly and revere
your God. I am the LORD” (Leviticus
God has not rescinded this command! Rising
in the presence of older people is a wonderful act of respect,
demonstrating your appreciation that they’ve lived
Age is an acceptable yardstick for showing
respect, whether you know the individual personally or not.
Whenever an older person arrives home, even a father from work
or a mother from errands, the child(ren) should rise and greet
them. They’re worthy of respect!
Personal acknowledgement of the importance
of others is basic to human interaction. Giving special regard
to seniors recognizes their role in God’s sight as
repositories of wisdom and life experience. If older
people come to visit, find out what will make them comfortable
and join in as a family to engage them conversationally.
Respect is encouraged when children
recognize that older people are not their peers. You’re wise to not let your
children call older people by their first name, such as
“Mike” or “Sue”. Given names are used by people who are on equal
footing. Children show respect by
using appropriate titles: Mr., Mrs., Miss. How-ever, older
friends who are close to the family may enjoy affectionate
titles such as “Uncle”, “Aunt”,
“Grandpa”, “Grand-ma” or other agreed
Courtesy of Older People
Toward The Younger
“Age should speak; advanced years
should teach wisdom” (Job 32:
“Gray hair is a crown of splendor;
it is attained by a righteous life”
If you’re older, be mindful of the
feelings of those younger. Never forget that you are an example for
good or for evil to the next generations. Genuine concern for
and interest in those of fewer years will help them respect you more
When a younger person comes into your
presence, acknowledge them in a way that upholds their dignity
and self-worth. Don’t just nod or offer a half-hearted
greeting. That is discourteous, and certainly not a picture of
the inclusive welcome that Jesus would extend through you.
Inquire about the things in their life
that are important to them. You might not consider their
interests particularly worthy, but providing a conversational
bridge allows you to frame questions and comments that come
from God’s perspective rather than that of the world. Don’t
close relational doors needlessly through thoughtless,
Handshakes and Hugs
“Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the called-out ones of Christ send greetings” (Romans 16:16).
Most adults shake hands when they’re
introduced. The older person initiates the greeting, and a man
usually waits until a woman offers her hand. If a man is
seated, he should rise whenever he is being introduced.
Paul instructed followers of Jesus in
Rome, Thessalonica and Corinth to greet with a holy kiss those with
whom they share a deep common bond through the Spirit.
(Culturally, the apostle’s middle eastern heritage showed
welcome through a kiss on the cheek. However, this was
generally extended only to those of the same gender.)
Out of consideration, reserve your hugs
and kisses for those whom you know they’ll be a blessing
rather than a discomfort. An undesired hug or kiss can offend, just the
opposite of the responsive consideration that underlies
Paul’s admonitions in Romans 14. Just because
you’re a “hugger” doesn’t mean you have
a right to
do so without asking first! Some people reserve physical
affection for special people in their lives, so be considerate
of their perspective.
Walking Outdoors, Opening Doors, Holding A
“Husbands, in the same way be
considerate as you live with your wives,
and treat them with respect as the weaker
partner and as heirs with you of the
gracious gift of life, so that nothing
hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7).
When a man walks with a woman outdoors, he
is on the curb side or the side closest to oncoming traffic to
protect her. Even this simple action, along with opening a door
for a woman or holding her coat, expresses an element of honor
and concern for her well-being.
These actions may elicit surprise from
many women today who have been trained to do everything for
themselves. If so, smile and offer to help, taking no offense
if your offer is refused. But if you make the effort to get to
the door first (whether the car door or entry into a building
or room), she may receive your considerate gesture with
Hold the door open until she (or an older
person or one who is carrying something) passes through, then
When you’re helping a woman with her
coat, hold the coat with the armhole at a comfortable height
for her to slip her arms into it. And ladies, in each of these
instances, remember to express appreciation that someone showed
One other point to help men understand and
appreciate how to respond to a key difference God has placed in
women: the diverse levels from which they communicate. Men, this is an
area in which you need to be especially considerate.
A woman is fully able to switch from
communicating from her mind to her emotions to her will to her spirit — all without a man having any idea from
which arena she’s talking! Therefore, he can’t make assumptions that he knows what she
means without asking questions for clarification. This isn’t meant to malign women or
frustrate men; perhaps it’s a means by which our Father
allows these differences to complement one another as varying
perspectives are brought forth.
Most men are “bottom line”
thinkers. They see a problem and want to solve it. In fact,
solving their wife’s real and perceived
“problems” gives most men a great deal of
satisfaction. Without realizing it, though, men are in fact
exhibiting inconsideration by projecting that women are bottom
line thinkers as well. Not so!
Your wife, as your God-given
companion/helper, is designed by Him to support you through her
mind, emotions and spirit. If you don’t understand how
intricately these three areas operate, you’ll hurt her.
Here’s an example of how this communication difference
“You’re always watching TV. You hardly spend any
time with me.”
“What do you mean? I spend a lot of time with you!”
To most husbands it sounds like she just
wants more time in his company. Yet, she may be feeling
unappreciated and unloved, so she’s emoting. She
doesn’t want him to pay attention to her out of
obligation, but from his heart. The time together isn’t the real issue, but her need
to feel wanted by her husband.
“Remind the people... to be ready
for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable,
gentle, showing all humility to all men” (Titus 3:1,2).
Be courteous when you’re talking on
the phone. When answering or placing a call, identify yourself.
When placing a call to a stranger or someone you don’t
know well, say, “This is [your name]”, and tell
them your purpose for calling.
Always be mindful of when you call. If you
haven’t made specific arrangements with someone about a
good time to contact them, don’t call before 9:00 AM or
after 9:00 PM. And, always avoid calling at meal hours. (Also,
be considerate of your own household and let your answering
machine/voice mail take the call when you are meaningfully
involved with each other.)
you’re with is the one whom
our Lord is interacting through you. You can easily make
someone feel inferior by taking a call in mid-discussion by
disregarding their dignity as they sit silently while you talk
to someone else.
If you’re anticipating an important
call, ask permission to be excused for a moment. At any rate,
step away and take the call privately if you must, but keep the
conversation as brief as possible. No one should have to be
privy to anyone else’s phone business! (We speak from
personal experience. Recently, while awaiting a flight, we were
sitting near a woman on a cell phone. Her loud, detailed
descriptions of her daughter’s personal life were embarrassing!)
If you’re in an area of known poor
cell phone reception, don’t place a call only to be
dropped by the network. It wastes the time of others and shows
Don’t Draw Attention to Yourself
“The woman of folly is boisterous,
she is naive, and knows nothing” (Proverbs 9:13)
“There must be no filthiness and
silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but
rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:4)
If you’re habitually inclined to
attract attention to yourself, you might benefit from
discovering if spiritual strongholds are prompting you to do
this. The character of Jesus is “gentle
and humble in heart”, One Who
calls us to learn from Him as He directs our lives within the
protection of His yoke (see Matthew 11:29).
You may feel that shouting, whist-ling,
clowning, loud laughter, booing, and coarse joking are
acceptable fun — but those who are around you may not be
amused. In fact, you may be coming across as an inconsiderate
irritant. Is that the image of our Lord that you want to
depict? It’s not an issue of personality but one of spirit: “Am
I putting others before myself out of love, or am I trying to
grasp at something to meet a need in a way that’s not as
Jesus would do?”
Ask Forgiveness When You’re Wrong
“Therefore, if you are offering your
gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has
something against you, leave your gift there in front of the
First go and be reconciled to your
brother; then come and offer your gift”
Being convicted that you need to ask
forgiveness of someone you’ve wronged can be hard,
especially if you feel the other person has wronged you as
well! But YOU are the one the Spirit is calling to take that
necessary step of reconciliation.
If your humble request is scorned, then
continue to bring that person before our Lord in prayer.
You’re not responsible for his or her decision to
withhold forgiveness, only to be sure that you are
right-hearted in asking.
Be honest when you ask forgiveness. Look
directly at the person and let them know that you’ve
wronged them. Then ask, “Will you forgive me?”
Don’t just say you’re sorry! By asking forgiveness,
you’re restoring their dignity by allowing them to choose
to forgive or not.
In turn, if you’re the one being
asked for forgiveness, don’t make it difficult by
demanding an “emotional pound of flesh”. Remember
how much our Lord has forgiven YOU for all your offenses, and
graciously extend mercy. Your willingness to forgive and to
allow the Spirit to heal your wounded emotions gives hope that
your relationship can be restored.
“Simply let your ‘Yes’
be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’
‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil
one” (Matthew 5:37).
Always remember that your word —or
your signature — is your bond. Whether you’re
dealing with someone who knows that you follow Jesus or not, be
honest and direct in all that you do. The Book of Proverbs
overflows with guidance for interpersonal contact in the
business realm as well as among family and friends. Our God
made sure that direction was included in His Word so that we
would learn to apply His ways for our good and that of others.
A simple example for Proverbs application
that your children will understand is this: Take care of
another person’s things with at least as much respect as
you give your own. Never take someone’s property without
permission, and always return promptly that which you do borrow
— cleaned and repaired if need be.
Another example of demonstrating
consideration in your daily life: If you rent a house or
apartment, don’t abuse it! Don’t leave your
belongings lying around outside or allow your pets (or
children!) to cause damage. You’d be surprised at how
many people who consider themselves Christian disdain the
property of others!
“Owe no man anything but to love one
another” (Romans 13:8)
It’s a matter of honoring Jesus that
you discharge your acknowledged and just financial obligations.
Be reluctant to borrow from family or friends. It often puts a
wedge in the relationship.
Insofar as is immediately possible, avoid
or free yourself from debt. The presumption of spending
resources that you haven’t yet received is an affront to
God (see James 4:13,14). And misuse of the funds that you do
have brings discomfort to those who care about you, as they
aren’t sure if they should offer help or not. They
certainly don’t want to be out of God’s will by
subsidizing your irresponsibility!
Years ago, while at seminary, we planned
to buy a house we’d found. Mike’s brother had
offered to co-sign for a loan, yet that evening the Holy Spirit
gave us a rhema that altered that course: “better a neighbor nearby than a brother far
away” (Proverbs 27:10). The
next morning we were directed by a seminary staff person to a
local banker, a follower of Christ who talked with us for two
hours about our walk with Jesus. He then offered the loan for
our house, which we were able to sell at a profit several years
Not only was Mike’s brother freed
from any possible sense of financial obligation, but we also
had a testimony of our Lord’s intervention that
encouraged others about His faithfulness to make His will
To Your Community
“Do not withhold good from those who
deserve it, when it is in your power to act” (Proverbs 3:27).
of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to
the interests of others” (Philippians
Look around your neighborhood and your
community with a view to showing the Spirit of Christ at work
through you in tangible love. (Remember Jesus’ command to
love our neighbors?) Ask yourself how Jesus would contribute to
the well-being of those who live around you. Would He donate
blood regularly? Work in a soup kitchen? Visit the elderly?
Include in your family’s life a single mom and her kids?
Each of these examples is an opportunity
to treat others the way you’d wanted to be treated in
their situation — and to respond to the Spirit’s
prompting for the specific impact you can have with each person
He brings your way!
“Fathers, do not exasperate your
children; instead, bring them up in the training and
instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians
Do you find yourself mired in the words
“I”, “me”, or “my” around
your home? How about intentionally thinking “we”,
“us”, and “our” instead so that your
family members can follow your pattern of inclusivity rather than
self-focus. Jesus has called you out as members of His Body
— parts functioning in love together. HOW you work that out daily
demonstrates just how yielded you are in your love for HIM.
We’ve written about the need for
your home to be a refuge for each person — a sanctuary of
well-being in which consideration is first learned and
consistently put into practice. This harmony is violated when a
husband and wife bicker or belittle each other, especially in
front of others. Any family dissension should be discussed in
private between the individuals involved.
It’s especially important that your
mealtimes together not be allowed to be a verbal battlefield!
Prevent hurtful intent by removing the offender from the meal
and making clear that such behavior is unacceptable. If a child
is unruly, take him or her away from the area and correct in
Keep in mind that children are people —
little people with big feelings that can be hurt just like your
own. Some parents constantly scold their children to try to
make them polite. Sadly, insistent nagging changes nothing
except to embitter a child. Develop your own family halakhahs about the
consideration and manners which you’ll model and nurture at your table.
When your child is old enough to sit at
the table, he or she should learn a few everyday manners
— gradually — so that they’ll become a habit:
to be clean when he comes to the table (especially his hands),
to close his mouth when he chews his food, and to talk only
after the food is swallowed. He shouldn’t play with his
food or make noises to get attention. Eventually he needs to
learn not to interrupt others— though this takes time
because children talk spontaneously!
Teach your child to ask for food rather than
grab it. And don’t let him fuss or argue about the food
that’s set before him. He needs to trust that you, know
what’s healthy for him. If he does fuss, let him leave
the table without eating. Again, your table is a family
gathering for enjoyable discussion, not a battleground of
Remember, as a parent you are res-ponsible
to God for the nutrition that goes into your child(ren). God
has provided food out of His design to nourish the body and
replace nutrients that have been used up. You are in effect
teaching your children to rebel against His design if you let
eating devolve into feeding their sin nature-controlled
Providing food only to accommodate a
child’s taste preferences reinforces the sin of gluttony.
It also fosters distrust in you as a loving parent who cares
for their well-being. One wise parent told his complaining
child, “We thanked God for this food which He provided
out of His love. This is our meal, and nothing else.” This
phraseology has stopped a lot of resistance in many households.
Teach your child to say “Thank
you” and “Excuse me” at the table so that
they’ll recognize the value of others besides themselves.
Then, as they grow up, they’ll automatically express
thanks in other social interactions.
When he’s finished eating, teach him
to ask if he may be excused if he needs to get up while others
are still eating. And, how valuable it is to have them learn to
pass food to others and to help set and clear the table. These
aren’t just tasks, but opportunities to overcome their
self-centered sin nature by looking to the interests of others!
Have Meaningful Conversations
“Be wise in the way you act toward
outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your
conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so
that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5,6).
An essential facet of everyday living is
the art of conversation. A good conversationalist:
always has something interesting to
is a focused, interactive listener
who asks questions;
is not overbearing or
has ready testimony of how God has
been at work around you.
For many people today, authentic
conversation has little value. But if you’re a follower
of Jesus, you’re representing a King Who has the
interests of others at heart! Walking
in His steps calls for responsiveness to the Holy Spirit in
learning to converse with others in a meaningful way.
To be a good conversationalist is to have something worthwhile to say. Then, you need to be able to say it well. Poor
grammar, rude or vulgar expressions, and consistent drawing
attention to yourself are careless personal habits that can be
corrected if representing Jesus to others is important to you.
If you are older, remember that younger people are looking to
you as a role model. If you’re careless in the way you
speak, you’ll be sending a message that mediocrity is
acceptable in the Kingdom.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil
among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets
the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire
by hell (James 3:6).
The objective in healthy conversations,
even with those who may oppose what you’re saying, is to
create an atmosphere in which thoughts and ideas may be
exchanged without tension. Paul’s counsel in this area is
most wise: “All of us who are
mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point
you think differently, that too God
will make clear to you” (Philippians 3:15).
Be careful before engaging in arguments!
You can disagree in your mind completely, but also engage in a
conversation without leaving everyone emotionally estranged.
Speak the truth, but don’t manipulate or try to coerce
others into agreeing with you. Keeping the relational door open
is more important than pressing an issue as an argument.
Starting a quarrel is like breaching a
dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out (Proverbs 17:14).
Don’t have anything to do with
foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce
quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel;
instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not
resentful (2 Timothy 2:23,24; see
also 1 Timothy 4:7,8; 6:4,5; 2 Timothy 2:14, 16,23).
If you must go on record about a point of
disagreement, word it with grace, such as, “I’ve
given this matter much thought and have come to an entirely
different conclusion.” Don’t just tell someone,
Think before you blurt out something you
may later regret. Your relationship is key, and you may have
other opportunities to return to the matter at hand after
you’ve committed it to prayer. In short, learn how to
disagree without being disagreeable.
If you long to genuinely represent Jesus,
take seriously the question, “What
would Jesus do?” in regard to
everyday treatment of others. That’s where good manners
comes in. On the other hand, if you have a casual approach to
life that’s based on lawlessness, this Lifebyte will seem
useless to you. Sadly, that’s the attitude of many who
call themselves “Christian” but whose lives defame
the holy Name of Jesus:
You claim to know God, but by your actions
you deny Him. You are detestable, disobedient and unfit for
doing anything good (Titus 1:16).
We’ve shared with you various social halakhahs the Holy Spirit has given us to live by. These have
helped us reflect Jesus in our personal interactions, and have
helped others perceive the Bible as active and alive in its
usefulness to daily living.
If you recognize the biblical foundation
to our halakhahs, then discuss them and make them a way of life for
yourself and your family. Consider all your social interactions
in light of what Jesus would do if He were you.
“Even a child is known by his
actions, by whether his conduct is pure
and right” (Proverbs 20:11).