Christian Courtesy

“To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

- Titus 3:2

God has established His church as “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14–16), a beacon that shows forth the way to truth in the midst of a creation that has been darkened by human sin. Among other things, this means that there should be an observable difference in the values and behaviors of Christians and those of the non-believers around us. Believers, of course, still face the same temptations as unregenerate people (1 John 1:8–9), but over time the Holy Spirit does His work in His people, conforming them to the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).

Unfortunately, Christians do not always bear the image of God’s Son that well. But it is one thing to recognize sin, repent, and then show a real concern to mortify the flesh and its evil desires and quite another to sin brazenly while claiming the name of Jesus, calling good that which is evil. And it is especially bad when “Christian” leaders drag the Savior’s name through the mud by their unrepentant, flagrant sin, for these bad examples of the Christian life lead many into wickedness. This was a problem for the first-century Cretan church where many false teachers were “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers” and “upsetting whole families” (Titus 1:10). Refuting such teaching involved the proper way of life for the church, and this is what Paul gives in his letter to Titus.

Today’s passage outlines what it means to live differently than the world. Paul tells us that believers must “speak evil of no one” (3:2), which does not mean that we never publish the wickedness of others when it is appropriate to do so but rather that we not engage in slander. The Greek word the apostle uses is blasphēmeō, which is the same verb used to describe the blasphemy of God. Basically, the apostle is telling us not to misuse the names of other people, whether by spreading falsehoods about them or by maligning their character. Simply put, as one commentator notes, we should restrain the natural inclination to say the worst about others. Matthew Henry helpfully exhorts us: “If no good can be spoken, rather than speak evil unnecessarily, say nothing. We must never take pleasure in speaking ill of others, nor make the worst of anything, but the best that we can.”

Coram Deo

Christian courtesy, this passage tells us, includes not speaking evil of anyone, something that is hard to do when others are gossiping. Let us, as followers of the Lord who was slandered unjustly, refuse to participate in speaking evil of other people. May we be the first to object when rumors and innuendo are spread, and may we also not air the dirty laundry of other people. In this way we protect others from harm.

Passages for Further Study

Numbers 20:2–13
Psalm 140:11
Colossians 3:8
James 4:11–12

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