Friday’s Essay - Restoring Civility

7Jul

Below is the podcast of an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can find other essays, sermons, devotions, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 

 

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Of all the things people say we’ve lost as a society, the saddest and ultimately one of the most destructive is a general loss of civility. Put another way, we don’t seem to be put a high value on people treating one another with respect and compassion. And even though I think this is part of a trend we’ve seen for at least the last couple of decades, it seems to be have picked up steam in the last year or so. I mean, based on the actions of those who hold positions that make them role models whether they like it or not, what used to be considered boorish behavior has replaced good manners. And we’ve accepted name calling and false accusations as substitutes for reasoned discussion. As a matter of fact, I think we’re reaching a point where facts are relative and determined by opinions and assumption. And if an opinion or an assumption is different from what we want to believe, then we feel the right to label it false or fake and to accuse those who say it as liars and frauds. This has become the world in which we live.

 

Of course, having said this, I assume some folks will suppose that I’m making a political statement and will either say “amen” or “shut up.” But I’ll tell you, I’m not directing this toward one individual or group, as though the problem would be solved if a certain person changed his or her ways. In other words, this isn’t the monopoly of one faction or ideology. No, although this trend may be better illustrated by some rather than others, it’s still an issue that predates any single election or movement. As a matter of fact, like most issues, it started small and has grown over the years. What’s a problem now, pulling at our unity as a society and distorting our conversations, started with an inappropriate comment that was ignored or a sarcastic response that was encouraged or some juvenile name-calling that was rewarded. You see, what started as a seed has flowered into Audrey Two, something that I believe poses a greater threat to our way of life that anyone running around Syria.

 

And as members of this society, I think it may be time for Christians to take a stand against this drift. And we can do it by simply deciding to do the very thing that Jesus Christ commanded us all to do. Remember, when asked, “‘Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?’ Jesus answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments.’” [Matthew 22:36-40] You see, regardless of the position we hold, regardless of what those who disagree with us say, and regardless of what we feel like saying, Jesus told us to love one another, even to love our enemies. And this wasn’t offered as an option, rather an obligation. We are called to love God and others.

 

And if we have doubt about what this love is all about, Paul was clear. He wrote, “Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting.” [1 Corinthians 13:4-7] Now that’s love is all about, and this is exactly what we’re obligated to show. And if we choose not to do it, I mean, if we choose to be mean and nasty, arrogant and rude and if we choose to be quick tempered and to seek revenge and if we choose to accept as true things we know are false, then we’re not following Jesus Christ. Of course, we’re still saved by grace and we may be fun at parties; we’re just not living as a disciple, regardless of our ability to work spiritual-sounding words into a conversation. As Christians, we must decide to love.

 

And I’ll tell you, when we make this decision, I believe civility will follow. You see, I personally believe it’s impossible for a Christian consistently to treat others with anything less than respect and compassion. And when we slip into arrogance and rudeness, we’ll do something else Christians tend to do; we’ll confess it and repent. You see, I think this cultural lack of civility is reversible. And it’ll start when brothers and sisters in Christ make the decision that we’re going to set following Jesus as a priority, and we’re going to love all our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. I believe this is the way we can restore civility to our society and maybe even to our world.

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