The political pundits have more than adequately documented the nastiness during the Primaries of this year’s Presidential campaign. And some predict it will wax worse as we pivot toward the general election.
Over the past several years, we have witnessed a decline in civility and increasing coarseness in society. Vulgar expressions, barnyard humor, and pejorative terms have become the rule instead of the exception. But the guilt is not reserved for our politicians.
Crude, crass and coarse speech is on the rise in every segment of society. Star athletes. Famous movie stars. TV talk show hosts. News commentators. And unfortunately, sometimes Christians are guilty.
Often problems, pressures, or disagreement can fuel our emotions and produce rude words and uncivil actions. Civility calls for common courtesy and good manners. It is witnessed in words and deeds that reflect affability, amiability, geniality.
“Friends” on facebook often resort to name-calling, character assassination or simple insults. Instead of friendly discussion, honest debate or a cordial exchange of ideas, the rhetoric becomes heated and retorts are reduced to ad hominem attacks. This blog has been on the receiving end of some of that petty prattle. I typically just ignore it. However, it would be nice for someone who disagrees to show where the post was untrue or the Scripture misapplied.
Furthermore, let’s not hide behind the guise of “free speech.” Too often when someone is called out for the rude language and insulting epitaphs they cry, “What ever happened to free speech?” Nothing, of course. But as one sage suggested, “Speech is free. But the consequences aren’t.”
The Bible is plain regarding the impropriety of rude and crude talk among God’s people.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out-of-place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Eph. 5:4)
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice (Eph 4:31)
But lack of civility is not just a political problem, or a national issue, but is something we must deal with in our homes, neighborhoods and churches.
Husbands and wives need to show each other kindness, courtesy and respect. The “love chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13, says “Love has good manners.” Our children follow our lead. Their respect or lack of it will often be a reflection of the degree of our civility in the home.
The second great commandment teaches “love your neighbor.” The golden rule states that we need to treat others the way we want to be treated. Our social relationships need to be punctuated with politeness.
Brethren have a unique bond in Christ. We share the same spiritual blessings. The same Heavenly Father. The same goals. Dreams. Aspirations. Our commonality in Christ ought to produce a different spirit than the world. Civility is seen in our humility, gentleness and meekness. Paul admonished, “Be kind to one another.’ Kindness breeds civility. Our actions, attitudes and words mirror the image and influence of Christ.
So, while the political discourse descends into the gutter, let God’s people raise their discourse to a higher and nobler level. When others are provoked let’s be peaceful. When a facebook friend hurls insults, let’s respond with respect. When a neighbor is rude, let’s be polite. And even when a brother in Christ disappoints us by his discourtesy, let’s reply with civility.
Today in your speech look for ways to express empathy. Communicate compassion. And demonstrate good manners.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman