Courtesy, Kindness, and the Christian Life
Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
(Phil. 2:2-5 NRS)
I suppose it is a sign of advancing age, but it seems that I remember more often these days some of the things my father said. One of them is, “You gotta think about the other fella.” How simple, and how increasingly absent from our common life these days. We are harried, stressed, anxious, and running late, and other people are just in our way. “I don’t have time to be kind! Some other day!”
We often think of courtesy and kindness as simple, common things that we could pick up and do whenever we wish. But I don’t think that is true at all. Notice the word that is repeated three times in the passage quoted above. It is “mind,” which means attitude, or way of thinking, and in this case, a way of thinking about ourselves.
This “mind” is to put the concerns and needs of others before your own. That is the attitude of Jesus. He did not think about his own divine rights; he thought about our desperate need. But let me say that such an attitude is far from normal to us humans, and it is not something that can be packaged up as a nice, neat New Year’s resolution: “I am going to be kind to one person (who doesn’t deserve it!) every day.” Well, that’s not a bad idea, but like most good resolutions it won’t last without something deeper having taken place first. This kind of undeserved grace to others, this kind of incredible self-forgetfulness, is only possible to those who, like Jesus, have died to their rights. Have you, have I? Have I ever, in a moment of utter submission, died to my way, and come alive to his, and am I daily allowing him to pronounce the death sentence over my “own interests.” That is what it will take for most of us to introduce courtesy and kindness back into the public square. Let it happen.