Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Philippians 1:27
“Don’t sign in, you need to reschedule,” the receptionist said.
“I’m sorry, what?” I asked, thinking there had been some kind of emergency in the office.
“You’re late,” she stated.
“What time is it?” I asked, confused. Although I was a few minutes late, my cell phone told me her clock was fast.
Seeing an empty waiting room, I asked if there were any open slots that afternoon; “No.”
“How about tomorrow?”
I was a little taken aback. No “I’m sorry this is our policy now.” No “I’m sorry you’re going to be in pain for another four days.” I apologized for being late; no response. Feeling not unlike an elementary school pupil sent to the principal’s office, I limped back to my car.
Is it just me, or is the prevailing mood these days rudeness, if not downright hostility? Stressed people everywhere feel free to express their irritation with no civility filtering their responses.
Social media can be a showcase for rudeness. While that particular morning the receptionist was right, I was late, being publicly reamed on social media doesn’t necessarily involve a person’s having done anything wrong. A difference of opinion will suffice. If you speak your mind, get ready to be insulted and alienated. And woe to those who make mistakes! Opponents pile on without mercy, never mind the benefit of the doubt.
I realize there are people who are 100% sure they are right, many of them professed Christians who believe that since they are quoting the Bible, God is on their side.
But does being right give us the right to be rude? Is this the way followers of Christ should conduct themselves? These internet warriors might want to take another look at their Bibles, especially the book of Acts, to see how the first Christians behaved when the Church was persecuted – and growing like wildfire. The early saints’ encounters with their opponents, both Jews and Gentiles, are profound lessons in how to conduct ourselves “in a manner worthy of Christ.” One striking example is Peter.
At Pentecost (Acts 2), the fisherman who had been intimidated into denying Jesus three times was now emboldened by the Holy Spirit. Peter stood fearlessly preaching the gospel to a great crowd of people, many of whom were the very ones that had called for Jesus’ crucifixion. Peter might have had reason to be hostile. But if you read Acts 2:17-36, you’ll see he did not berate or accuse. He did refer to “this Jesus, whom you crucified …” but he was merely stating facts. As a result, the crowd was “pierced to the heart” and wanted to know how to be saved. Peter gladly told them, and about three thousand were baptized that day!
After a miraculous healing in the Temple, Peter and John were dragged before the authorities and ordered not to preach Christ anymore. There is no record of an angry response on their part. They merely said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19,20) Although this passage acknowledges that there are times when civil disobedience is warranted, even then the apostles did not resort to childish backtalk.
When Peter preached the Good News to a large gathering of people in the house of a Gentile named Cornelius, everyone there came to faith. (Acts 10). When confronted by the Jews about his “crime” of associating with Gentiles (Acts 11), Peter did not respond defensively, but as verse 4 says, he “began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened.“ The result?His former accusers “had no further objections and praised God.” (vs. 18)
Peter could have reacted in anger. But I’m guessing the Good News was still so new to the apostle that his joy overwhelmed any defensiveness. Remembering his denial of Christ, he may also have been humbled by the fact that he was not only forgiven but even counted worthy to represent Him.
When you are falsely accused by others, do you respond with rage, or do you simply, calmly explain the truth to them, giving them a chance to change their minds?
A large chunk of Peter’s correspondence with the Church (I Peter 2:13- 3:17) is about humbly submitting to authorities when possible, and testifying “with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (3:16)
The best defense against an accusation is to show yourself undeserving of it.
Peter was eventually condemned to crucifixion, his martyrdom his final gift to the Savior he loved. There is no record of his being dragged off, cursing and screaming. On the contrary, tradition says Peter requested to be crucified upside down, believing himself unworthy to die in the same way his beloved Master had.
We may never be called to give up our lives for Christ the way Peter was – or maybe we will. But are we willing to give our lives to Him a moment at a time? Are we daily “dying to self” by maintaining a respectful attitude to everyone, even those we know are wrong, knowing that we’ve been wrong ourselves? If we’re accused of being despicable jerks, do our daily encounters say otherwise? Do we consistently stand out from the rude norm of society in our quiet confidence and peaceful attitudes?
(How easy would it be for those who know us to believe an evil report?)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You loved Your enemies, even praying for them as they were crucifying You. Forgive us for arguing, insulting, and mocking our “enemies” over disagreements, major and trivial. Help us to maintain Christlike attitudes in all of our dealings, so that we leave no confusion regarding our faith in You, in Your name. Amen