Today’s Word: ‘Decorum’ as in… behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety actually has ancient biblical grounding.
Eugene Peterson and I were sharing a long afternoon together. We were talking about the power of community, the art of civility, and how showing mutual respect, honor and dignity are necessary for the health and well-being of the body politic, otherwise known as the whole human community. How we interact with and treat one another is vital to the health of any relationship – whether personal, regional, national, or global. It was, at the end of the day, a discussion of decorum. Leave it to this gentle, wise pastor with an expertise in ancient biblical languages to ground his thoughts in scripture. Eugene reached for a well-worn copy of The Message Bible, a translation he created over nearly 30 years as a pastor, teacher, speaker and author. He turned to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7.
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (Matthew 7:1-5 MSG)
We all belong to each other. We are an extensive community of friends, lovers, spouses, family members, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, in-laws, coworkers; people we know well as well as people we may not know well, or even at all. Because we share the same air, because we share the same space, the same sunlight, the same rain, the same gift of breath, the same everything, it’s necessary for all of us to lean into ways of living together that make it possible for all of us to thrive together personally, regionally nationally, and globally. The issue isn’t “How do you become more like me?” or “How do we become more and more like one another?” Rather, the issue is “How do we come together more intentionally to celebrate the many diverse ways we bring life and aliveness to one another, and then do that in a way that is civil, respectful, honorable and healthy?”
Think about the relationships you have. What’s working and what isn’t? Bring to mind your more primary relationships and ask yourself: “How can I bring less a sense of ‘me or you’ and more of ‘we and us’?”
What would it look like if you made a concerted effort to focus less on another’s shortcomings and your needs, and focus more on your own shortcomings someone else’s needs? What kind of personal, regional, national, and even global transformation would that bring about?