eCare: That's Just Rude

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eCare: That's Just Rude

Dear Friends in Christ,

My sister, Barb, an avid reader of these eCares and a faithful supporter of my ministry through the years, recently questioned whether we were experiencing division or strife in the congregation occasioned by my pending retirement and Pastor Nate’s assumption of his ministry as senior pastor of Beverly Heights. She thought she had picked up a hint of such in what I was writing.

I was happy to assure her that to my knowledge such is not the case, that, in fact, I am giving witness to the absence of such division due to the love of members of our congregation for one another. Of course, such love is not perfect but I think that Beverly Heights is a congregation to which the Apostle Paul could point as an example of the relationships he desired to witness in the church at Corinth; relationships characterized by love which makes for unity in the church.

Paul said in I Corinthians 13. 5: Love is not rude! What comes to mind when you think of someone being rude? As I ponder my upbringing by parents who I don’t ever remember using the word “rude” it was (and still is), nonetheless, clear to me what behavior is rude:

1. Putting your feet on the furniture

2. Interrupting someone when they are speaking

3. Being flippant or “cute” around adults

4. Calling adults or people in authority by their first names

5. Failing to say “Please” and “Thank you”

6. Not knowing one’s place

7. Leaving the table without asking to be excused

8. Not looking an adult in the eye when talking to them

9. Asking personal questions of adults

10. Pushing past someone without saying “Excuse me”

Though I am sure that none of these things was what Paul had in mind there is a key to be found in understanding what is meant by rude. Strictly speaking the Greek word means “to behave shamefully, disgracefully or dishonorably.” But in reference to what? Here’s the key and the connection with the list from my childhood: rude behavior is any activity in defiance of moral or social standards with resulting disgrace, embarrassment or shame.

The word that is translated “rude” in I Corinthians 13. 5 is also used in 11. 2-16 to refer to the behavior of women who refused to cover their heads when worshipping. Head covering for women is not one of the Ten Commandments and does not rise to the level of moral law. However, it was a matter of what I might call “social practice with theological backing.”

Worshipping, as a woman without a head veil, was rude behavior because it was flagrant self-centeredness and failure to appreciate the scruples of others and conventions of the church with which such women were a part. It was rude because it was inconsiderate of other people’s feelings, practices or deeply held customs in favor of doing one’s own thing, having one’s own say and rising above others with a community-killing self-promotion. Such behavior was rude…it was not loving!

Why should I have to sacrifice what I want, what I think, what I believe? one might ask. There’s no hard and fast answer to that question but at least one response might be to suggest that as a church congregation, as the family of God in this place, all personal actions must come under the scrutiny of asking “How will this affect my brothers and sisters in Christ? How might it impact the unity of our church which must, at all cost, be a demonstration of the reconciling and unifying power of Christ’s cross and empty tomb?

From time to time in the church we recognize that individual members have views that differ on points of theology and they are debated in bible studies or Sunday School classes and, quite often, discussions with Pastor Nate or me ensue. Rarely, however, do those differences lead to a fracturing of the unity of the church. Our oneness is in Jesus Christ – His creation of all there is and His work of redemption on the cross for all who trust in Him. This is the strong core that holds us together at the center of the church.

Sadly, it is more often the lesser things of a more social, political or interpersonal nature that cause parts of the congregation to blow up and splinter off ‘like a tin drill bit hitting steel’ because the minor things are elevated to major status and individuals are unwilling to temper their views, their actions or their rhetoric for the sake of maintaining the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4.3). Again, we fail to consider what we are saying and doing in the light of its impact on the unity of the church, a unity which cost Jesus Christ His life in order that we might have it! Consequently, we operate out of rudeness not out of love.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law -- though not being myself under the law -- that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law -- not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ -- that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22

No Barb, we don’t have division in the church, I am grateful to report. But it’s always good and safe to be reminded of the foundation upon which the unity we enjoy is built and thereby to govern ourselves accordingly.

Faithfully in Him,