Summary: Paul could very well have another honor added to his impressive record. He could be considered the most courteous man in the New Testament, next to his Lord.
Timothy Eaton became the most successful business man in the history of Canada by the simple
virtue of courtesy. Back in 1869, when he started his first store, he instituted a new policy. In those
days a customer was almost compelled to buy something. He was coaxed and implored, and even
bullied, and insulted, if need be, to make a purchase. If he did get out of the store without one, he
was made to feel like a whipped dog running away. Timothy Eaton said, "No more of this nonsense."
His clerks would be courteous, and let the customer shop and buy what he was convinced he wanted,
and without pressure.
This new idea went over so well that his store was soon the busiest place in town, and before long
he was building factories to supply his stores. He built branches all over Canada, and when he died
in 1907, he was respected the world over. He had to have other virtues as well, but courtesy was one
of the keys to his secular success. Courtesy is a secular word that never quite got converted into a
sacred word. The result is, we seldom deal with it as a Christian virtue.
It was a royal virtue to the ancient Greeks. It meant, to be friendly minded. Kings were expected
to be friendly to their subjects. The Athenians considered it a virtue that should characterize every
man. The Emperor Julian, who was greatly influenced by Christians, exalted courtesy to the highest
level in government. He taught that politics and laws were to governed by this virtue.
The fact is, the New Testament is weak in promoting this virtue. The only two people in the New
Testament who are described as being courteous are pagans. In Acts 27:3, the Roman Centurion,
guarding Paul on the way to Rome, showed courtesy to Paul by letting him visit his friends. In Acts
28:7, the pagan chief Publius was courteous to Paul, and the others who shipwrecked on his island.
Being courteous just means being nice to people, and giving them a hand in time of need, and
showing them respect as human beings. It is a basic secular and humanistic virtue. Nobody has to be
a Christian to be courteous. Anybody can be, and almost everybody is, to some degree, and so it is a
virtue greatly neglected by Christians. It is the Apostle Paul who rescues this virtue from the domain
of the secular, and brings it into the realm of the Christian life. He does it, first of all, by making it a
virtue of God. In Titus 3:4 he uses the Greek word philanthropy, the same word used to describe the
pagans courtesy to him, to describe God's love and kindness to sinful men. This is the only place in
the Bible the word is used of God, but once is enough. God is courteous, or friendly minded toward
That alone puts courtesy on the theological map, but the most powerful witness of Paul to the
value and validity of courtesy as a Christian virtue is his personal practice of it. There is good reason
that Paul was treated courteously by pagans. He was reaping what he sowed. Paul could very well
have another honor added to his impressive record. He could be considered the most courteous man
in the New Testament, next to his Lord.
We know he got this courteous spirit from Christ, for he was anything but courteous before his
conversion. He threw women, as well as men, into prison, and did not hesitate to approve the stoning
of an innocent man like Stephen. The opposite of courteous is rude, rough, overbearing, and
tyrannical, which fits Saul of Tarsus to a T. But look at Paul now, in his A D spirit, that is, after
Damascus. He displays a level of courtesy that rises above the secular level. Paul gives us a
demonstration of Christian courtesy. He exhibits this virtue in three ways. First of all-
I. BY HIS COURTEOUS ADDRESS.
Paul actually addresses this mob with the respectable titles of brothers and fathers. These are the
same two words he uses all through the New Testament as terms of respect. Keep in mind, they had
just minutes before tried to reduce the population of Jerusalem by one, and he was the one. They
were trying to beat the life out of him. It was no brotherly fight, or fatherly discipline. They wanted
to murder Paul on the spot. Yet we do not hear Paul shouting at them, "You lame-brain idiots, you
madmen!" Instead, he says, "Brothers and fathers," and he says it in their tongue of Aramaic, and the
crowd is shocked into silence. They had to be surprised by both his attitude and his Aramaic. He