"We must learn to adorn every day with sacrifices. Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices. Temperance, courage, love, are made up of the same jewels. Listen to every prompting of honor" (Ralph Waldo Emerson).
I was not quick enough out of the gate for the driver behind me, so he leaned on his horn. My mother made a comment about the lack of civility of Philadelphia drivers. (Good thing the corruption of incivility is contained in Philadelphia-please don't let this virus spread.)
Now more than ever it is good for the Christian to consciously cultivate good manners. We don't use the phrase "good manners" much. Perhaps it fell out of favor because it seemed superficial and not explicitly biblical. But I would settle for good old superficial manners on the roads at this point.
The kingdom of Satan gradually turns its willing citizens into creatures resembling animals:
"But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively" (Jude 1:10).
The Kingdom of God, by contrast, is humanizing:
"… I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).
At first it is surprising to see the word "flesh" here at the end of this Ezekiel verse. We expect something more sublime and "spiritual": Shouldn't it say "a heart of love"? Or "godliness"?
But the Lord is content that we become fully actualized as man, and what man was created to be. And so the Spirit has the scribe write "heart of flesh." Jesus is man fully actualized, and He gives the grace for us to become like Him:
"… we all … beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another …" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Good manners, when they are deeply rooted by grace and a thousand repetitions- a thousand little deaths or "petty sacrifices," as Emerson somehow grasped-are the homely stuff of which the loftier virtues of temperance, courage, and love are made. And these are truly jewels, for they make a man to shine, and all the more so as culture grows coarser. If we want an easy way to stand out in this generation, let us have considerate habits and be:
"… blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world …" (Philippians 2:15).