Many of us have undoubtedly seen the sign ‘Keep off the grass’ somewhere or the other. Indicating that we should not use the grass as a playground or shortcut, thus preserving the landscape. Most of the time however we have gone right ahead and walked on the grass (myself included), without any regard for the carefully posted signs. Shame on me for doing so in the past.
This article centers on an important part of our daily interaction that is slowly dying and that I fear we will not be able to resuscitate unless we apply ourselves to keeping it alive.
We all know that as Christians who have been ‘born again’ we have been translated into God’s Kingdom and have become citizens of ‘The Commonwealth of Israel’. We are well aware of the rights and promises that become ours by virtue of this adoption but sometimes we do not measure up when it comes to the responsibilities that come with our ‘Citizenship’. Now, what does this have to do with ‘keeping off the grass’ Ahhh… here comes illumination…
It has to do with this quaint French inspired word called ETIQUETTE.
The word ‘etiquette’ originally meant, “Keep off the grass”. The story is that Louis XIV’s gardener noticed that the aristocrats were walking through his gardens on their way to court, and he, therefore, put up signs, or étiquets, to ward them off. The dukes and duchesses, however, walked right past these signs! Due to this blatant disregard, the King of Versailles decreed that no individual was to go beyond the bounds of the étiquets. The meaning of etiquette would later include the ticket to court functions that LISTED THE INSTRUCTIONS ON WHERE A PERSON WOULD STAND AND WHAT WAS TO BE DONE, and had to be adhered to, or the person that breached these codes of conduct would be in danger of being excluded from polite society. Etiquette, like language, has evolved, but it still means literally “keep off the grass”.
*Until the 1960’s, the importance of good manners were taught without question, but with the liberated 70’s came a decline in the popularity of teaching proper etiquette. Recently, a new emphasis has been placed on returning to traditional values that once were, and made society the more ordered and civilized milieu that it once was.
Over the last few years, I have noted this same decline in polite behavior in even and especially in Christendom. I have heard various ‘pitiful platitudes’ excusing this unacceptable behavior e.g. “Oh that’s our culture” (Whatever the culprit nationality is), “Oh I am so stressed”. Or with righteous indignation “Well, she/he had it coming to him/her”… etc.
THESE EXCUSES ARE NOT A LICENSE FOR UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR!
I am sure some us have started replaying certain scenes in our minds and are right now saying: mm hmm…mm hmm… But before we start ‘mm hmming’ let’s pay attention, not to the ‘speck’, but the ‘moat’… As some Christian preachers would say, “Some of Y’all didn’t get that“. What I am saying is that if this article does not point you inward it, would have failed in its intent. As there needs to be a new standard set for our conduct as Christians, and that standard ‘KINGDOM ETIQUETTE’ i.e.
‘KINGDOM ETIQUETTE’: The MINIMUM standard of acceptable behavior in God’s Kingdom and amongst God’s people that will set us apart as being unique and of a different breed. This precedence is not one that has not been laid out and exemplified in the Bible; and God’s people – His Royal Dukes and Duchesses, have repeatedly lived it out from Genesis to Revelation.
Please Stay with me as we go to the book of Romans 12: 9-11….
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; (NKJV)
Or as the message bible puts it, Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
THIS ‘Kingdom Etiquette’ is the standard that God himself has set. I am sure that many of us have discovered that keeping these standards for some of us, is well nigh impossible, but this does not excuse us from our responsibilities even as we enjoy or privileges. BUT as we desire to ‘Keep off the grass’ God has promised that He will help us…
The Holy Spirit helps our infirmities by groanings that cannot and must not be uttered for fear of bad behavior :-)… BUT only if we let Him outwork His fruits through us as he matures us.
I found some humorous (at least to me) and deeply insightful scenarios of ‘Kingdom Etiquette’ in the Bible, which I have outlined below:
God; Being open and sincere:
Gen 18:17 (He does not practice double standards)
And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?
Abraham; Being polite with God: Gen 18: 27,28
And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD, which am but dust and ashes:
Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
Abraham; Knowing the boundaries of polite conversation: Gen 18: 32,33
And he said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I WILL SPEAK YET BUT THIS ONCE: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.
And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and ABRAHAM RETURNED UNTO HIS PLACE.
JESUS; Preferring his disciples and serving those whom He had Lordship over John 13:5
After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
What elegant examples of ‘Kingdom Etiquette’! Let’s contrast this with one of our dear friends who might very well have been yours truly:
Peter: Zealous violence: (e.g. the ‘righteously holy’ usher on a mission… God help us! lol I’m truly sorry…. Not!) John 18:10
Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus… (Like I said this could have been me… but I’m learning 🙂
… And we see how Jesus sets the standard beautifully: Luke 22:51
And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.
Demonstrating what He came to do:
To serve and not be served,
To be Lord, but not to Lord over.
Pretty high standard huh? But with God ALL things are possible…
So as we go about our day and we are tempted to walk across the lawn or cut someone’s ear off, Let’s remember to ask for grace and the help of the Spirit to preserve the landscape of our heritage in Christ, and…
KEEP OFF THE GRASS!