So first of all, what are manners? I mean, if we are to have some, it probably would be a good idea to figure out what on earth we are supposed to have, right?
Well, when we first think of manners, the first thing that pops with a elegant ring into our well trained mind is table manners.
~Ask for someone to pass you the bread instead of reaching across the table for it.
~You place your napkin in your lap when you eat.
~In higher class setting, you eat the salad with a different fork than the one you will use for the main dish.
Stuff like that. Simple easy things of table etiquette that are practiced world-wide.
There are other applications of manners, not associated with the table, that are also widespread in their acceptance.
~Shake hands when greeting someone.
~Look people in the eye when you talk to them.
~Don't interrupt when someone else is speaking.
Why? Why are things that are so simple and so menial accepted worldwide with one consensus as proper and orderly?
I did some looking around, and found this definition of manners.
"In sociology, manners are the unenforced standards of conduct which demonstrate that a person is proper, polite, and refined. They are like laws in that they codify or set a standard for human behavior, but they are unlike laws in that there is no formal system for punishing transgressions, the main informal "punishment" being social disapproval. They are a kind of norm."
So, manners are the norm on how we are supposed to act, at the risk of being "socially disapproved". As Christians, social status means about as much to us as who won the ball game last Friday.
So, since we really couldn't care less about what the world thinks of us, should we ditch all worldly mannerisms, and show that we are free from their heathen standards and under Christ's headship solely?
Spit in someones face why don't we! Slap them! Interrupt them! We are free from sinful humans standards!
We know that isn't an option, we know that we are to act better than that, although not for the same reasons that other people do.
So if we don't do it because then people accept us, why do we do it?
Well, you say, its about treating others in way that shows them honor and respect as another human being.-
Ah, now we are getting somewhere.
So manners aren't just a set of rules in-and-among themselves, but are based on some guiding principles that affect how we treat people.
As Christians, this should sound awfully familiar.
Mat 22:37-39 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
So, we are supposed to treat others as we want to be treated. That sounds like a much more Biblical reason to treat people well, than just so we will have "social approval".
*sigh, rolling eyes*
"Social approval" annoys me.
Anyway, since Christ is our role model for all of life, we use him for an example for how we treat people. He was perfect, in all that he said and did, so we can therefore deduce however he treated people and acted was how we are supposed to act. He certainly didn't do what he did just because he wanted to be socially acceptable. In fact, just about everything he did wasn't. Therefore, we shouldn't either. We need a good ground for why we do things, not just because everybody else does.
So now that we have a foundation to base things off of, we can move ahead.
We respect people because Christ would. We honor people because Christ would. We show preference to other people because Christ would.
How about table manners? Would Christ have table manners? Is eating with the right fork doing as Jesus would do? He broke the eating commands of the day by not washing his hands before he ate. ( I personally follow Jesus' choice in that moment quite frequently. :) )
Are we supposed to *bow* to these worldly standards that the world has set up?
I would make the case that based on the principle of honoring others, if they expect a high level of etiquette, do it. If they don't, don't. In one sense, go with the flow. I think think this is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 9.
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
So Paul is saying to, to a certain extent for the purpose of relating and sharing the gospel, to do as others do. I'm not saying this applies by wearing skimpy clothes and tattoos because the world does. If it is taboo to Christ, it doesn't matter if they do it or not. What he is referring to here is these small things like table manners, greeting etiquette, etc., and similar things that to them, show them that you respect their preferences, and do not insist on doing things your own way.
So, treat others as Christ would treat you. Prefer one another in life.
That folks, is good manners.