Summary: Paul, what is so important about politeness? It sounds like a rather wimpy subject to me.
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
CENTRAL CHRISTIAN, BROWNSVILLE, TX
A. As most of you know, I’m in the midst of a series of sermons based on 1 Corinthians 13, the "Love chapter" of the Bible. And that chapter begins with some powerful statements. Listen as I read those first 3 verses to you again.
"If I speak in the tongues of men & of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy & can fathom all mysteries & all knowledge, & if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor & surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."
That’s powerful, isn’t it? The kind of love that God wants in our lives is something really special.
Then in the next few verses the apostle Paul lists some of the characteristics of this great love. Listen as I read.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" [Vs’s 4-8a].
Wow! If we would really put this love into practice in our homes & in our relationships with others, it could turn the world upside down.
B. But this morning I want to draw your attention to a characteristic that is mentioned at the very beginning of Vs. 5. The apostle Paul says, "Love is not rude." In other words, "Love is polite." J.B. Phillips paraphrases this verse by saying, "Love practices good manners."
Now folks, I don’t know about you, but at first glance that sounds awfully anti-climatic. I mean, here we are, living in a world that is torn apart by all kinds of hatreds & oppression, national conflicts, racial strife, class warfare, & even religious animosity. And I’m sure that it was just as bad or even worse back in Paul’s day.
But yet, he makes it a point to tell us, "Love is polite." Really, Paul, what is so all-fired important about politeness? It sounds like a rather wimpy subject to me. But it isn’t! In fact, the absence of this facet of love may be key to a lot of the problems that we are facing in society today.
ILL. For example, in last Thursday’s newspaper there were two front-page headlined articles about welfare recipients & the problems encountered in trying to help some of them train for & find jobs.
One article stated that the Texas Department of Human Services sends welfare recipients who don’t already have jobs to mandatory job training. Of those who go through the training program & get a job, about 25% quit within a week. It went on to say, "They...can’t handle the stress of being at a job site," & "...can’t get used to the demands of the workplace."
The other article went into even more detail about the situation nationwide. It said, "Most public-aid recipients want to work, experts say, but limited...social skills...make it tough to hold on to a job."
It told about one of the largest job training programs in the country and said that 54% of the people they helped lost or quit their jobs within six months, & 71% of them lost or quit their jobs within a year. "We know how to get them in the work force," said the program director, "But we don’t know how to keep them there."
Another expert said that a job means imposing a different kind of discipline. "It’s very hard to be a reliable employee if you don’t learn...control. ...They’re surprised to learn the workplace isn’t a democracy. ...They don’t understand what the rules are: (that) Bosses have the right to tell you to do things."
APPL. Now did you see the key phrases in those two articles: "limited social skills...can’t get used to the demands of the workplace...different kind of discipline...surprised to learn...don’t understand the rules...can’t handle the stress"?
SUM. It is obvious that something is missing, & it isn’t just a lack of education, because there are many who have made their way in life despite little formal education. And it isn’t just poverty either, for there are even more people who have risen by their own boot straps from poverty to wealth.
C. May I dare to suggest that part of the problem is that many of these people who can’t hold on to their jobs have never learned what the apostle Paul is talking about?
We’ve developed a whole generation & more, of people whom sociologists call the "Me Generation," people who have grown up concerned primarily about themselves, about their "rights," their privileges, & their own well?being.