“Behave in a Manner Worthy of the Good News”
“Only behave in a manner worthy of the good news about the Christ.”—PHILIPPIANS 1:27.
1. A recent event in New York City elicited what favorable comments from the mayor? (Romans 13:3)
“MORE than 1,000 Witnesses” came to City Hall in lower Manhattan on September 29, 1988, reported The New York Times. They came in support of a building proposal that was up for a hearing before the city Board of Estimate. Although the proposal to permit a new residence building at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses was turned down, the mayor “praised the Witnesses as ‘extremely cleancut’ and said they were ‘really to be admired.’”
2. In what way are the manners of the Witnesses different, and why?
2 Normally, when over a thousand people come together to show support for an unpopular cause, what can be expected? Pushing, shouting, even displays of outright force and violence are not uncommon. Why are the Witnesses different? It is because they realize that at all times their behavior reflects on their belief. They remember well the Scriptural counsel: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.”—1 Peter 2:12.
Fine Manners Glorify Jehovah
3. What role do our manners play in honoring Jehovah?
3 To glorify Jehovah God with fine conduct is clearly part of our Christian responsibility. (Matthew 5:16) Fine conduct, of course, includes many things—for example, honesty, diligence, and good morals. However, these qualities are usually appreciated only by those who know us well or those with whom we have regular dealings, such as our friends, relatives, employers, workmates, and teachers. What about the vast majority of people with whom we have only perfunctory contact? This is where our manners especially come in. For like an attractive wrapping that enhances the appeal of a valuable gift, good manners make what we have to offer more appealing. Whatever other fine Christian qualities we may possess or however admirable our intentions may be, they will do little good if our manners are bad. So how can our manners bring glory to Jehovah?
4. In what areas of life should we give attention to our manners?
4 “Only behave in a manner worthy of the good news,” says Paul. (Philippians 1:27) This, of course, involves our public ministry. But our behavior and manners at our place of worship, in our neighborhood, at work, in school, yes, in every aspect of our lives, also have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of our ministry. “In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, that our ministry might not be found fault with,” writes Paul. (2 Corinthians 6:3) How can we be sure that we are applying that counsel? What can we do to help one another, especially the young ones among us, to exhibit Christian manners at all times?
At the Kingdom Hall
5. What should we recognize when we are at the Kingdom Hall?
5 The Kingdom Hall is our place of worship. We are there at the invitation of Jehovah and his Son, Jesus Christ. In that sense, we are guests at Jehovah’s house. (Psalm 15:1; Matthew 18:20) Are you a good guest when you come to the Kingdom Hall? To be such, we must show due consideration and respect not only for the host but also for the other guests. What does that involve?
6. (a) Being consistently late at meetings shows a lack of what? (b) What can be done to overcome the problem?
6 To begin with, there is the matter of being on time. It is admittedly not always easy to do so. Some live far away; others have family and children to get ready. The effort they put forth to come to Christian meetings regularly is truly commendable. It has been noted, however, that some have fallen into the habit of arriving late for meetings. What can they do to rectify this? One must first recognize that being habitually late at Christian meetings does not always reflect a lack of appreciation for the value of meetings. Some who are frequently late seem to enjoy the meetings as much as anyone else—once they get there. Rather, the problem may result from poor planning and lack of consideration for fellow Christians. One of the reasons we are admonished ‘not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together’ is so that we may “consider one another to incite to love and fine works.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) We can hardly do so if, time after time, we arrive late and thus create distraction or disturbance. In order not to be late, experts suggest, we should aim to arrive well ahead of time rather than being there just on time. Do you need to put this into practice?
7. Explain what paying attention at meetings has to do with good manners.
7 Good manners require that we give our attention to people when they speak to us. (Proverbs 4:1, 20) This also applies to Christian meetings, where ministers of God speak in order to impart some spiritual gift to upbuild us. It would really be a show of very poor manners on our part if we were to doze off, repeatedly whisper to the one sitting next to us, chew on gum or candies, read other material, or attend to other matters during the meeting. Young Elihu not only sat patiently through the long speeches by Job and the three companions but also “kept giving ear” to what they said and “kept [his] attention turned” to them. (Job 32:11, 12) Good Christian manners will move us to show proper respect for the speaker and his Bible-based message by giving him our undivided attention and support.
8. How do we show that we are fellow disciples of Jesus Christ?
8 Before and after meetings, Christian manners include our taking an active interest in others who are present at the Kingdom Hall. Paul observed that anointed members of the Christian congregation “are no longer strangers and alien residents, but . . . are members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19) Do you treat your fellow Witnesses as strangers and aliens or as members of the same household? A friendly greeting, a warm handshake, a kind smile—all small things, perhaps, but they are part of the evidence that we are fellow disciples of Jesus Christ. If we make such gestures when we meet strangers, should we not do so “especially toward those related to us in the faith”?—Galatians 6:10.
9. How can children be taught to show interest in people other than those of their own age?
9 Can children be taught to show this kind of interest in people other than those of their own age? Some adults may feel that children need to go and play with their little friends after sitting for an hour or two listening at meetings. But the Kingdom Hall is not the place for play. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 17) When a four-and-a-half-year-old boy was asked by his teacher how many brothers and sisters he had, he replied: “There are so many I can’t count them all.” Later, when his parents questioned him about this, the boy explained: “I don’t know how many brothers and sisters I have. When I go to the Kingdom Hall, there are so many.” To him, all who attend are his brothers and sisters.
In Our Public Ministry
10. What instruction from Jesus can help us to “behave in a manner worthy of the good news” while in our ministry?
10 To “behave in a manner worthy of the good news” naturally involves our public ministry. We must bear in mind that what we have is a peaceful message, and our manners should reflect it. (Ephesians 6:15) The instruction from Jesus is: “When you are entering into the house, greet the household; and if the house is deserving, let the peace you wish it come upon it.” By being warm, friendly, and respectful, we let the householder know that we have his genuine interest at heart. At times, though, the person we meet at the door may be unfriendly, even belligerent. Shall we be disturbed and begin to behave in like manner? Note what Jesus went on to say: “But if [the household] is not deserving, let the peace from you return upon you.” (Matthew 10:12, 13) Our manners on the doorstep should always befit “the ministry of the reconciliation.”—2 Corinthians 5:18.
11. How do our manner of dress and personal appearance affect our role as ministers of God?
11 Our manners speak about us in other ways as well. For example, does our personal appearance befit our role as a minister of God’s Word? What about the equipment we use—book bag, Bible, and Bible literature? A newspaper columnist gives businessmen this advice: “Dress for business, not for a party, casual get-together or sports event.” Why? Because your dress and personal appearance “are a social shorthand that gives the surrounding population information about who and what you are and where you fit in the order of things.” So when we go about our ministerial “business,” our dress and appearance should be neither slovenly nor unkempt, neither flashy nor extravagant, but always “worthy of the good news.”—Compare 1 Timothy 2:9, 10.
12. How can good manners be shown with respect to the rights and property of the householder?
12 Though we should be “always ready to make a defense” of the good news, good Christian manners require that we do so “with a mild temper and deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) That includes respect for the householder’s rights and property. Do we plan our activity so that we call at a reasonable hour? Are we alert to note whether we are interrupting some necessary business or chore? Are we generous in using expressions such as “May I?” “Please,” and “Thank you”? Do we endeavor to engage the householder in conversation, or do we dominate it for fear that we may not get through with what we have prepared to say?
13. Illustrate how fine manners in the ministry often bring good results.
13 Good manners, coupled with sincere personal concern, often open the way for a fine witness. This is why well-mannered children frequently gain the attention and interest of householders where adults may fail to do so. A 13-year-old Witness in Mexico met a young girl who wanted to study. However, the girl said she would have to do so without her father knowing about it. But the young publisher felt that, in this case, out of respect for the father, she herself should obtain his permission. So she offered to speak with the father and told him that what they were going to study was very important. Seeing how serious the young sister was and appreciating that she had come directly to him, he said: “If what you are going to study is so important, then all of my family should study.” The result was that this 13-year-old started a Bible study with the whole family, including a married son and his wife and other grown children.
Good Manners Begin at Home
14. Where do good manners begin, and what factor plays an important role?
14 The good manners of young Witnesses are often a fine testimony to the training they evidently receive at home. Indeed, our manners are a reflection of our way of life. For this reason, contrary to what some may think, good manners should hold an important place at home. In this, as in other aspects of family life, parental example is of prime importance. (2 Timothy 1:5) Telling children, “Do as I say, not as I do” is certainly no way to teach them manners. The countless details of good manners are learned, not simply by verbal instructions, but by observation and imitation. “Parents are not only the ultimate teachers; they are also the models, for our children learn by imitating our ways,” observes Beverley Feldman, author of Kids Who Succeed. What kind of manners do your children see in you?
15. How can parents help their children to develop lifelong habits of good manners?
15 “Fathers, do not be irritating your children” is the Bible’s counsel. (Ephesians 6:4) It is irritating and frustrating for children to be told that they should be kind and considerate, and yet they see their parents argue, gossip, act rudely, or get easily upset. Can they be blamed if they act in the same manner? On the other hand, the scripture goes on to say: “But go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” And that includes the fundamentals of good manners, such as saying, “Hello,” “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry,” showing respect for older ones, and sharing things with others. (Leviticus 19:32; Romans 16:3-7) These qualities learned at home during childhood will be of lifelong value.—Proverbs 22:6.
16. What efforts are needed, with what results?
16 So parents and children alike should practice good manners as part of their daily routine rather than wait until some special occasion. In doing so, parents should be patient and tolerant of the mistakes children are bound to make. Let them know how much their fine behavior means to you, and be quick to commend the progress they make. Of course, this takes much effort on your part. But did the Scriptures not say that inculcating godly principles in children should be done “when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up”? (Deuteronomy 6:7) Doing so creates a genial and wholesome atmosphere at home, which goes a long way in nurturing your children as they grow up to be helpful, caring, and mannerly adults. Then they will become a source of praise and honor to you and to their Creator, Jehovah God.
A Well-Mannered People
17. What is observed at the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
17 The “more than 1,000 Witnesses” gathered outside City Hall in New York City that September afternoon merely displayed on a small scale the way Jehovah’s Witnesses behave on a regular basis. Elsewhere, a man came to a Kingdom Hall for the first time and said afterward: “I met more genuinely loving people, total strangers, in one day than I had ever met in the church in which I was raised.” The result? “It was apparent that I had found the truth,” he said. This man changed his life course, and seven months later he dedicated his life to Jehovah and was baptized.—Compare 1 Corinthians 14:25.
18. How has the standard of good manners of Jehovah’s Witnesses affected outsiders?
18 The Witnesses’ standard of manners and decorum at their national and international conventions has been a subject of much favorable comment. On one such occasion recently in Japan, a guide on a tour bus observed: “As you people got off the bus, each one of you, including the young ones, without fail said to me, ‘Thank you very much.’ That made me very happy!” At another convention, the attendant at a nearby railroad station told a Witness: “It was a chaotic disaster when a previous gathering of 12,000 people was held at the Osaka Castle Hall.” But he went on to say: “You people are really orderly, and we are relieved. Please give our regards to whoever is in charge.”
19. What should each one of us be resolved to do about manners?
19 What do such comments show? That Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole do “behave in a manner worthy of the good news.” What about us individually? As children looking to a loving father, may all of us, young and old, look to our heavenly Father, Jehovah, so that we may be taught to be a well-mannered people, even in an unmannerly world.—Deuteronomy 8:5; Proverbs 3:11, 12.
Do You Remember?
□ Why are good manners needed as part of fine conduct?
□ What fine manners are appropriate at our place of worship?
□ How can good manners be demonstrated in the field ministry?
□ How can parents help their children to develop good manners?
□ What high standard of manners should we endeavor to uphold?