In or about the year 64 A.D., Simon Peter, the first among the Apostles and soon to die the death of a martyr, was addressing gentile converts who lived in small, scattered communities throughout Asia Minor.
If anyone had the right to advise Christian people how best to act in the face of religious persecution, it was Peter, but the advice he gives is applicable to other situations as well.
He tells them to reverence the Lord Jesus in their hearts and to be always ready to attest to that Divine presence. He wants them to be able to say candidly, "I have hope precisely because I am loved and redeemed by Jesus Christ."
"But remember," says Peter, "ALWAYS EXPRESS THIS FAITH WITH COURTESY AND RESPECT."
Christian preachers put great emphasis on the virtue of charity. Jesus told us that love of one another must be the principal characteristic of any Christian community but by his own example he demonstrated that courtesy and respect are inseparable from authentic love.
In fact, it is at this level that universal love of neighbour becomes practical and realistic. Anything else is a philosophical pipe dream.
Make your own personal application by asking yourself this question: Are my relationships, intimate or otherwise, characterized by courtesy and respect...or do these values come into play only when I am trying to influence someone?
How many of us are on our best behaviour with customers, clients or employers, but habitually curt and insensitive within the context of family or with people we like to consider inferior?
Young people might well ask themselves if they are as polite, not "formal" mind you, but polite and considerate toward their own parents as they are toward the parents of their friends.
And how about courtesy and respect on the roads and in stores?
Where courtesy and respect are absent, so too is love. And so therefore is Christ. That brings the fundamental Christian ethic down to where it is relevant to each of us.
Authentic love as demanded by Jesus of his followers is a day to day expression. It is not easy, and its most obvious characteristics are courtesy and respect.