This Sunday at Faith Reformed Church we had Dr. T. David Gordon of Grove City College as our guest minister. The sermon text was from I Corinthians 13, where Paul describes what love is and is not. Today Dr. Gordon focused on verse 5: love is not “rude.” I thought this was excellent, so I am posting my notes here. Naturally, there was much more to the message than I could record.
I. What does it mean to be “Rude”
Paul has 8 descriptions of what love is, and 8 descriptions of what love is not. What does it mean to be “rude”, and why did Paul think it important enough to include in this letter?
This word does not mean to put the fork in the wrong place. It means “to act in defiance of known standards of morality and decency.”
1. in the Law of Moses, some crimes had corporal punishment. The maximum physical punishment was 40 lashes. More than that was forbidden, because it would degrade (treat rudely) the offender. This is the same word as Paul uses in I Cor. 13:5.
2. In Ezra, the enemies of Israel send a letter to the king of Persia. They claim (falsely) that when the Jews rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, that they will rebel, treating the Persian rulers “rudely” (that is, without proper respect.)
II. Our culture is profoundly rude. It is hard to shock us. Examples:
1. Laxity of college students. In other cultures, students address their teacher by his title and may even bow to him/her. In many college settings, a student comes in to class, plugged in to his Ipod, and addresses teacher by first name. (He notes that this doesn’t happen at Grove City.)
2. Shock radio. Paul describes rudeness as a vice. For some people (i.e. Howard Stern, Don Imus), it is their job.
3. Offensive bumper stickers. Words that were once not fit for polite society are now in print, right on a person’s car.
4. Uncivil political displays. For example, anti-fur protesters throw real or fake blood at people who wear fur coats. The means of communicating opposition are often inappropriate.
5. Obscenity and outrageous display in music and the arts. The arts used to reflect what we thought was good. Now they are often designed to offend, and take pleasure in giving offense.
All these behaviors degrade men, who are made in God’s image. It is proper to throw away trash, and it is OK to send a mosquito to “mosquito heaven”. [Here I have a theological disagreement with Dr. Gordon. I don’t think there is a heaven for mosquitoes. :-)] It is not proper to treat humans as garbage or pests.
Despite the prevailing culture, we must learn to speak well of others, and to others.
III. Why? Paul’s words are not just moral commands, they are rooted in God’s nature.
If anyone should be treated rudely, it is us. We were rebels against God, and he could easily have written us off as a “lost cause.”
However, God does not treat us rudely. He calls us “His children.”
Christ honored us by taking on our nature, for the purpose of dying for us. He did not shock the prostitute, or the leper, or the tax collector, but rather showed compassion. He did not respond in kind to rudeness.
Similarly, when the Holy Spirit converts a sinner, He does not shock, humiliate, or degrade, but rather works quietly in a person’s heart.
Closing: In our world which is very “rude”, we need to learn how not to respond in kind. Rather, we, as God’s people, need to create an alternate subculture characterized by the way we treat each other with loving honor.