The 56th Rule of Civility and Decent Behavior

In 1595 French Jesuits composed a set of rules which they called “110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation”. At the age of 16 our first President, George Washington copied by hand these “rules” and patterned his life after them. Many of the rules seem outdated and even “silly” to some extent, but encompassed in these rules lie the basic tenants of Christianity. Many revolve around the two great commandments as found in the New Testament of loving the Lord with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22, Mark 12, Luke 10) One of the rules penned by the Jesuits was number fifty-six, which reads:

“Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ‘is better to be alone than in bad Company”

We have all been taught from our youth to associate with those of high character. We are also taught by the Savior to be kind and generous to all we associate with, be they of low character or not. The Savior mingled with people of all classes and stations in life. He ate with saints and sinners. The story is recorded in the gospel of Mark regarding the criticism of the Savior as to his dinner companions.
“And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:15-17)
Some might conclude from that story that Jesus endorsed associating with men of “questionable” character, but I don’t think so. First of all, Christ was and is the healing “physician”. He is the Savior of the world. His mission in life, and death, is to save all mankind. All mankind includes everyone, particularly those who struggle. There is the “ministry” of the priesthood of God that not only calls upon, but compels the holder to reach out and lift those in need. We should, of course, keep that charge in mind. The Pharisees and scribes biting criticism of the company that the Savior kept was more of an indication of the remarkable disdain they held for the lower class. Men of God should not hold such harsh judgement towards their “brothers”. In the personal ministry of the Savior I find the “selection” method of the apostles by Christ, those who would serve closest, to be enlightening. We read:
“And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles” (Luke 6:12-13)
I find it interesting that prior to selecting who he would most closely associate with in the coming years, the Savior retired to a mountain to ask for guidance from his Father. This speaks volumes as to the importance that the Savior gave to the decision as to whom he should surround himself with during his ministry. History confirms that he chose well as almost all ended up as martyrs for the cause. In my opinion, even Judas, the betrayer, showed character in that he was so disturbed by his actions, that the scriptures record:
“Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matt. 27: 3-5)
It is clear to me that the Savior set the example regarding the “company” that you keep. The apostles may have been simple men of the world, but they were giants when it came to character. We would be wise to follow his example and that of the French Jesuits in associating with men of “good quality and reputation”. While being “alone” is not an enjoyable position to be in, it is clearly better than surrounding ourselves in bad company.

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