But God has composed the Body as to give greater honor to those lacking it.
1 Corinthians 12:24
Finns are considered one of the most informal cultures in the world. Some have said their national costume is the tracksuit. They seldom wear suits and ties and normally call teachers by their first names.
The Finns don’t make a big fuss about a person’s status in society. But they are kind, and understand their informality could easily offend those from other cultures. Thus, guidebooks on social etiquette have been frequent best-sellers in Finland.
Manners should be motivated by respect for other people. But, sometimes, manners originate to show our dis-respect for them.
In medieval times, feudal societies marked their social status by their “manners.” Our English word, “courtesy,” originally referred to the behavior of those in royal “courts” – as opposed to the feudal peasants. Those who received a formal education adopted distinct manners to indicate their superiority to the uneducated masses. Before 1611, dining forks were unknown in England. After Thomas Coryate introduced them from Italy, they soon became markers of social status and sophistication.
Don’t get me wrong: I highly encourage showing respect to those in offices of authority. While performing their duties, we’re doing a good thing when we call a judge “Your Honor,” or a policeman, “Officer.” But we must remember that drinking tea with our pinkie in the air can become a thinly disguised means of displaying our snobbishness.
The Bible says we should show respect for those in authority. But God destroys snobbishness by flip-flopping the rules. He has composed the body of Christ so that those who lack status are to be shown special honor.
A century ago, Cecil Rhodes was, to put it mildly, an influential man. He founded the Rhodes Scholarship, the largest diamond company in the world (DeBeers), and even founded a country (Rhodesia).
As a British statesman, Rhodes was a stickler for proper dress. Once, Rhodes invited a young man to dinner. The man arrived by train and was directly escorted to Rhode’s mansion in his travel-stained clothes. The young man was aghast to see all the other guests wearing full evening dress.
When Rhodes spotted his young guest, he immediately disappeared. When he returned to his guests, he was no longer wearing evening dress, but instead, an old suit similar to that of the young man who just arrived off the train.
Manners can be used to flaunt social status. But manners can also be used to show that, in God’s eyes, we’re all loved equally. And to remind each other of that fact.
(copyright 2012 by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)