“Uncivil”

Today, it is evident that we are living in unprecedented, perilous times as spoken of in 2 Timothy 3:1-13. We are told that in the last days perilous times will come. Paul warns Timothy that people will love only themselves and their money; they will be proud and boastful, sneering at God, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful to them, and thoroughly bad. They will be hardheaded and never give in to others; they will be constant liars and troublemakers and will think nothing of immorality. They will be rough and cruel, and belittle those who try to be good.  They will betray their friends; they will be hotheaded, puffed up with pride, and prefer good times to worshiping God.  They will go to church, yes, but they won’t really believe anything they hear. He then encourages Timothy not to be taken in by people like that.

All around us we see political upheaval, incivility across the nation, a surge in Covid-19 cases in many states, the threat of economic collapse, a rise in racial tensions, unrest across the country over police brutality and racism, and ongoing deterioration of society under the weight of sin and immorality.

Civility  does not mean the mere outward gentleness of speech cultivated for the occasion, but an inborn gentleness and desire to do the opponent good.

Mahatma Ghandi

About a month ago while shopping in a local home improvement store, I heard the word “uncivil” in my spirit. I didn’t quite understand what the Lord was saying at that time as shoppers seemed fairly calm albeit there were quite a number of people shopping that day in spite of a pandemic. As I see the upheaval following the murder of George Floyd, I can better understand that the Lord was revealing how uncivilized behavior in this nation has reached a boiling point.

Civility is defined as formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech. Related synonyms: courtesy, good manners, consideration, respect, graciousness. Incivility means rude or unsociable speech or behavior.

Uncivil: discourteous; impolite; lacking in courtesy

Uncivilized: (of a place or people) without what is thought to be a highly developed culture and way of life, or (of a person) rude and not showing care for others: uncivilized behavior.

It’s difficult to imagine that what has been considered the most civilized nation on earth has become a nation of individuals that are rude and uncaring for others. Incivility has been on the rise in America for several years. I believe it is presently at an all time high because of political upheaval, protesting, looting and violence after the murder of George Floyd, and also due to COVID-19. Uncivil behavior can spread through society like a wildfire. Behaviors such aggression, anger, blaming, bullying, dishonesty, greed, narcissism, negativity, profanity and incivility are all uncivil behavior.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.2

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Given the unfortunate events of the past month, I think we all need a reminder of how our country needs unity, not division. In a supposedly civilized nation people are daily acting in an uncivilized manner. We cannot turn a blind eye to injustice and inequality in the United States. We cannot be silent during this time of upheaval in this nation. Videos and stories of how people are responding during the pandemic and following the deaths of George Floyd have surface in the new media, and on Facebook and Twitter:

  • A Michigan woman yelling racial slurs at new neighbors calling them n******, and then saying “Do you think you think because you’re not brown you are not a n******.” 3
  • President Trump retweeting a video and then deleting it in which supporter yells ‘white power’4
  • A maskess shopper in Trader Joe’s going a tirade because she is required to wear a mask;5
  • A St. Louis couple pointing guns at crowd of protesters calling for the mayor to resign6
  • Auro PD Boots and Pepper Sprays Peaceful Protesters at Violin Violin Vigil For Elijah Mcclain, 7

Tensions are running high. This is just a few of the daily headlines at the start of the week before we commemorate the Declaration of Independence of the United States, on Saturday, July 4, 1776.

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

George Washington, American political leader, military general, statesman, and founding father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797

There’s plenty of rancor, hostility in America today. Left vs. right. Extremes vs.  moderates. So treacherous are the positions and the language, some have predicted a coming Civil War – not between states, but between dogmas. It is believed that this war won’t be about race or economics or states’ rights. It will be about ideology and power.

Shane Phipps writer at Patheos writes, “Civil war is coming if we don’t act to stop it. We have a chance to change course and write our own history or to stumble ahead and repeat it.”1

The church has a huge stake in breaking the silence, because the God of the Bible characteristically appears at the margins of established power arrangements, whether theological or socioeconomic and political.

Walter Brueggemann, Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out

What is the root of all of this chaos we are witnessing. Scripture reveals that in these days, there will come times of difficulty. –2 Timothy 3:1 ESV

In 2 Timothy 2:1-5 The Message Bible (MSG) says, “Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.” Wow!

America is profoundly out of sync with the reality of God and deeply polarized, perhaps due to mixed messages from political leaders over the years. The American political system has cultivated this deeply dysfunction and polarized climate. An it’s only getting worse!

Polarized: to cause (people, opinions, etc.) to separate into opposing groups.

Discerning and understanding the times in which we live helps us know how we should live and respond as Christians during these times. Especially the nature of the spiritual warfare taking place around us through the influence and deception of the political spirit. Being created in God’s image and our oneness in Christ overcomes and abolishes the distinctions of race, and gender. There is no distinction in Christ. —Rom 10:11; Col 3:11; Gal 3:28; 1 Cor. 12:13

What the Bible says about civility?

Below are some Scriptures that encourages us how to respond as Christians in these turbulent times:

  • Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, –Col 4:6
  • With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. –James 3:9-10
  • 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
  • Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. –James 1:19
  • Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. –Rom 14:19
  • Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. –Eccl 10:12
  • Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. –1 Thess 5:11
  • But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. –Col 3:8
  • The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools. –Eccles 9:17

The mark of a civilized society

Leviticus 16:15

You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.

It is time for the church to provide solutions to the world we live in. We know God’s will towards all is good because God is love. It is a love in which God wishes to touch every life on this earth. If the church does not act now, many will be needlessly lost.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” –2 Peter 3:9

Dr. Francine

Notes:

  1. What the Bible Says About Civility, July 2, 2018, David Rupert
  2. This quote, attributed to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., is likely a paraphrase of original language that was slightly different. The closest statement your WorshipWeb Curator could find is this excerpt from Rev. King’s sermon on courage, delivered on March 8, 1965 in Selma, Alabama: “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”
  3. Michigan Woman Yells Racial Slurs at New Neighbors in Viral Video, Seren Morris. June 29, 2020, Newsweek
  4. Trump shares video in which supporter yells ‘white power’, Oma Seddiq, 6/2/20. Politico
  5. Trader Joe’s maskless shopper from viral video tirade speaks out, June 29, 2020 CBS News
  6. Couple points guns at peaceful protester, Ted Armus, June 29, 2020, The Washington Post
  7. Auro PD Boots and Pepper Sprays Peaceful Protesters at Violin Violin Vigil For Elijah Mcclain, TMZ, June 28, 2020

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