What does the Scriptures have to say about civility?
There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.Tweet
According to Wikipedia, the phrase “silence is golden” most likely comes from a proverb extolling the value of silence over speech, “Speech is silver, silence is golden”. There comes a time when we must break silence. Being silent may not be the best solution when our democracy is failing.
Our nation is in turmoil. Incivility has become a major problem facing Americans today. Americans from all walks of life are experiencing some form of incivility. An attack on the U. S. Capitol by insurrectionists, disruptive school board meetings, protesting against parents vaccination requirements, shouting “child abuse” at parents walking their kids to school because they are wearing face masks, Karens calling police on people for no reason at all has become normal behavior. A 2017 poll from Weber Shandwick notes, 95% of all Americans clearly believe that lack of civility is a problem. They also noted that Those who predict a more uncivil future hold several parties responsible, but blame is focused primarily on politicians (75%), the Internet/social media (69%) and the news media (59%). Blame on the Internet and social media has increased over the years. Prior to January 2016, the rate of Americans blaming the Internet/social media did not reach 60%. 1
“When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right,’”Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
One of the most important gifts of love is “speaking the truth” (Eph. 4:15). In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: ”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors, do they not do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Even the Gentiles, do they not do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt.5:43-48).
If we are only civil to those we consider to be ‘like us’ then we are overlooking the greatest of commandments of all, “Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37-40 GNT).
I believe it’s important for the Church of Jesus Christ to reflect the heart of the Father in these tumultuous times with clear instructions in the Scriptures. And as we contemplate our actions, our words and our deeds, let’s keep these in mind.
- 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)
Read part 1 – “Uncivil”
In His Service,
Min. Dr. A. Francine Green
Notes: All Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
- civility in america vii: the state of civility, https://www.webershandwick.com/uploads/news/files/Civility_in_America_the_State_of_Civility.pdf