Is it just me, or does it seem our national discourse is growing more crass, coarse and crude?
Foul language and rude retorts are nothing new. But they seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity. It is definitely reflected in exchanges on social media. Even among Christians.
Recently I witnessed a clash of opinions on facebook that featured name-calling. Imputing of motives. And disrespectful accusations. In a few cases, vulgarities were hurled at others with opposing views.
B.C. Forbes once said, “Politeness is the hallmark of the gentleman and the gentlewoman.” Being polite is not being pretentious or hypocritical, but
is a mark of Christian behavior. Politeness is actually intertwined with numerous Biblical exhortations. In fact, Orville Dewey suggested, “Politeness is practical Christianity.”
The famous love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, says, “love does not behave rudely.” The J. B. Phillips translation renders this passage, “love has good manners.” The TEV reads “love is not ill-mannered.” Politeness is an expression of the second great commandment “love your neighbor” (Matt. 22:39).
The apostle Paul admonished, “Be kind to one another” (Eph 4:32). Kindness includes being cordial. Considerate. Courteous. Thoughtful. Respectful. And polite.
The New King James renders 1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.” The word translated courteous is better rendered “humble” in other versions. But doesn’t good manners and common courtesy require a bit of humility? Selflessness? And geniality?
In a world filled with so much rudeness and crudeness, it takes humility, patience, and kindness to put up with the uncouth attitudes and actions of others. “The test of good manners,” wrote Wendell Willkie, “is to be able to put up pleasantly with bad ones.”
The Bible exhorts Christians to be concerned about their conversations with non-Christians with these words: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col 4:5).
Furthermore, we are commanded, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph 4:29).
The Preacher was right when he wrote, “Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips” (Eccl 10:12).
Yes, “you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Col 3:8).
The Bible is clear. It is “improper for God’s holy people” to engage in “foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out-of-place.” (Eph 5:2).
All of these passages point to edifying discourse that is measured, charitable and decent. Crude, coarse, and crass expressions of anger or antipathy toward others are not only inappropriate and impolite but unholy in the eyes of God.
We may not be able to do much to impact our national mood that is accusatory and uncivil, but each of us can begin with ourselves. In our homes. In our churches. In the workplace. And on social media.
Certainly, among brethren who share the same spiritual blessings and enjoy a commonality in Christ, we can show the world a different spirit. The attitude that compels us “to be kind to one another” breeds civility. Propriety. And politeness.
It is painfully obvious that much of our country is polarized morally, socially, and politically. Can we not as God’s holy people rise above it? Be better? Project a higher tone? And set a kinder, gentler example?
In the words of the prolific author, anonymous, “Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you. Not because they are nice, but because you are.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman