In our culture today, many people have forgotten the christian virtue of courtesy and chivalry seems to have fallen out of style. In our fast-paced society, we often fail to look outside of ourselves and neglect to go out of our way for others.
Being courteous means treating other people with respect and recognizing that all are made in God’s image and likeness. It means allowing God to soften our hearts and for us to begin viewing those around us with His merciful gaze. It’s so easy to make snap judgments instead of showing mercy, especially when other people aren’t courteous towards us. “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2).
To give you an example of what courtesy ‘looks like’, let me share a story told to me by a young lady.
A few years ago, as I was walking downtown, I spotted two young, homeless men sitting on the sidewalk. One of them held a sign that said, “Keep your money. Just hungry.” I was certain that someone would stop to give them some food. After all, it’s not like they were asking for money or trying to feed their addictions, which is why many people say they don’t give money to homeless people. And yet I watched as everyone—people who most likely owned cars and nice houses and made tens of thousands of dollars a year—walked past these two men who were only asking for one meal. Although I really didn’t have much money to spare, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to buy them food. It felt as though He had taken over, turning me around and marching me up to these men. I walked up to the man holding the cardboard sign and asked if I could buy them some food. He stared at me in shock. “What?” He asked, as if he couldn’t believe I was actually speaking to him. After I repeated the question, he nodded, eyes still wide in disbelief. When I returned with a set of burgers, fries, water bottles, and a gift card, he was absolutely blown away. It was like he’d just won the lottery.
When I think back to this moment, I wonder if I had been the answer to a prayer. Or maybe my one act of kindness and courtesy pulled him back from the edge of despair. While I may not have the answers to those questions, I learned that I can’t wait around for someone else to be courteous in my stead—it needs to start with me. God will provide me with the tools I need in order to show others the courtesy they deserve.