A little girl is said to have offered this prayer: “Dear God, make more people Christians and more Christians nice.”
Whether this anecdote is apocryphal or not, the underlying thought should concern all Christians. Only too often we Christians seem to overlook the niceties of human relations at the personal level. In so doing we are of little credit to the faith we profess.
The present usage of the word “gentleman” carries the connotation of one who is kind, gentle, considerate and thoughtful of the feelings and sensibilities of others. Unfortunately, the words “Christian” and “gentleman” cannot always be used synonymously.
A Christian should be one who exercises control of temper, speech and action. Yet some lose their tempers and even make an unfortunate exhibition of themselves in public places. Furthermore, Christians are often regrettably guilty of harshness of speech in speaking of others, including fellow Christians. And, Christians often act in such a manner that the worldling would never guess that they are other than pagans with more or less of a cultural veneer.
It is obvious that many, who, by the standards of this world are gentlemen, are in no sense Christians. It is equally true that some Christians can hardly be classed as gentlemen.
One of the things this world needs is people who combine both—people with the spiritual insights and morals of a Christian and the manners of a gentleman.
Why should we who profess the name of Christ, the One “altogether lovely,” disgrace that Name by failing to meet the standard such an allegiance demands?
The answer is we fail to make Christ the Lord of our lives. Furthermore, we fail to appropriate to ourselves the Christian graces and to show the fruit of the indwelling Spirit when with others.
This is a matter of grave concern. The witness for Christ in a needy world is so often lost because of the behavior of the very people to whom men should look. That this is a scandal no one should deny. That it can be changed we all should admit. That some of us do not stop to recognize our own share in this unhappy situation is the occasion for writing this article. Let us consider:
A Christian gentleman will be slow to lose patience, despite the fact that people may be very trying. This ability to be patient is a Christian grace which will carry us over some very difficult experiences and enable us to rise above them to the satisfaction of our own souls and also to the glory of God.
A Christian gentleman will look for a way to be constructive when provoked to be the very opposite. How easy to quench the smouldering flax or destroy the bruised reed, but how very worthwhile to conserve and strengthen that glimmer of good we can find in others if we but look for it.
A Christian gentleman will not envy the good fortune of others, nor will he belittle the achievements and recognitions others may receive, even when he feels that they might have been more fittingly bestowed upon himself.
A Christian gentleman will refrain from trying to impress others with his own importance. The worthy qualities of character and his achievements in life will eventually become known. To boast of them or to try to make them obvious is but to tarnish their original beauty. Nothing so detracts from a man as conceit and, because God hates pride, it can prove our complete undoing.
A Christian gentleman will have good manners. One does not have to be born in a palace to observe the amenities of life. Some of the most courteous people we have ever known were those to whom had been denied many of the social advantages possessed by others. But the courtesy, sense of propriety, and the demeanor they exhibited to others showed beyond a doubt that true culture is a matter of the heart and not of social standing.
A Christian gentleman will refrain from being “touchy,” even when he feels strongly that he has a right to resent the attitude of others. Many a Christian testimony has been lost by those who are easily provoked. Self restraint is needed, also a willingness to take an injustice on the chin if in so doing we can honor Christ.
A Christian gentleman will think the best, not the worst of others, and he will look for good and not for the evil. He will try to be as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove in handling others.
A Christian gentleman will not gloat over the wickedness of other people. In the theological realm he will rejoice whenever the Truth is preached, regardless of where or by whom, and he will not rush to expose every error he may discover but will try to cover it with the Truth itself.
A Christian gentleman will exhibit, above all else, the love of Christ in his heart and life, exercising by God’s help the graces necessary to show that this love is practical and unselfish.
If in the foregoing paragraphs there has been a paraphrasing of parts of the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians (with the help of Phillips), we make no apology for having done so.
A Christian and a gentleman must do two things: take the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and make him the Lord of life and appropriate to daily use the fruit of his indwelling Spirit.
We have seen many exhibitions of temper, of lovelessness, of harshness, of ill advised language, of just plain bad manners on the part of people who are unquestionably Christians. We shudder to think of the loss of Christian witness which is involved. The obvious reason is that too many of us remain babes in Christ, never growing to be mature Christians and by that failure miss great blessings for ourselves while we dishonor the name “Christian.”
This side of eternity none of us can be perfect. We are still in the flesh and we know only part of the picture, seeing even that as a baffling reflection. But this is no excuse for behaving as children, nor is it an excuse for failing to live by the grace and strength of the living Christ who wills that we should honor Him in every avenue and contact of life.
This is a matter of grave importance because it touches on a weakness of so many of us. A little courtesy, tact, good judgment, restraint, loving consideration of the feelings of others; all of these things can go so far to commend the faith we profess. Nor are we speaking of a kind of “satanic sweetness” which is nothing but sugar-coated pride.
The world needs more Christian gentlemen (and gentlewomen) who, for the glory of the Lord who has redeemed them, will let their lights shine before men.
With spiritual understanding and high morals? Yes. And in addition, with what the world will recognize as good manners in all of our personal contacts with others.
L. NELSON BELL
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