Love is not “Rude”

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.”

Biblical examples
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.

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8 thoughts on “Love is not “Rude”

  1. I thought mosquito heaven was the same place as people hell.

    Would any of this apply to things like standards of dress? I have an ongoing conversation on this with one child who greatly dislikes social norms like not wearing white dress shoes in winter.

  2. This would not apply to white dress shoes in winter.

    I think it would apply to “no shoes” at the White House.

    I am certain it would apply to any clothing that intentionally reveals one’s underwear… or worse.

  3. I don’t want to be rude, but I would like to put us college students in a bit of a better light. Professors always at the beginning of the course state whether they want to be called Doctor, Professor, Sir, or just simply by their first name. I don’t think it is rude to call a professor by his/her first name if he/she wishes so. Or is the professor him/her self rude if he/she wishes to be called by his/her first name?

  4. Ellie, I think the example was probably intended to convey the idea of a student who calls the professor whatever the student wants to call him, without bothering to care about what the professor wants, that is, without respecting him. And I don’t think he meant to imply that all college students act that way, but that a college student who did act that way, would be an example of rudeness.

    Kelly, I think mosquito heaven is the blood bank. πŸ˜‰

  5. Kelly, since Dr. Gordon started out the sermon by pointing out that things like “where the fork goes” is not what is in view here, I think that the wrong color shoes is not what this is about. Rather, he made clear that it is about things that are deliberately done to shock or offend out of malice or disrespect.

    The child who wants to wear the “wrong” color shoes may just not understand why it matters, or she may seriously be convinced that those who think it matters are mistaken, or she may have an attitude problem. If there’s an attitude problem, it might be rudeness (because she may want to shock others or offend you, because you care about it), or it might be something else.

  6. Jane, that’s exactly what I’m trying to get at. How would you handle a situation like that? How would you explain why it matters, etc.

    And I’m asking because I’m beginning to think that this child is bordering on “selfish disregard for the feelings of others” πŸ˜‰ and is expressing it this way.

  7. Kelly, this might be better posted at one of the discussion areas we both frequent. I have to say I’d have a really hard time explaining why it matters, πŸ˜‰

  8. In some London-Primary schools teachers are called by their first names! I went to a school for a morning last year – sort of a “course” and the staff informed me that they are called by their first names and so should I be called too…I didn’t mind, but thought..oh, this is a bit “funny”/odd…but thought to abide by the rule…”when you’re in Rome….” but I don’t know of any other school. I can’t really tell if that’s more “positive” but I don’t think they will ever introduce that in Secondary, I can just imagine how hard the children would find it when they go into Secondary to get used to call their teachers “Sir” again… interesting post!

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