There is an article in a recent TIME magazine about the way anger and hatred have taken over much of the discourse in America, and even spilling over into the violent acts we’ve all too frequently seen. Break Point is a five minute radio commentary from Charles Colson’s organization. Two of their recent commentaries have been on the need for civility in our conversations. I think even a casual observer of our media can see the truth of these comments. I am a conservative, biblically grounded Christian. I hold strong views on marriage, sexuality, and the sanctity of life. But I’m not against anyone. It is not my place to condemn any person for whom my Lord died. I do hate sin, those things that are contrary to God’s good will for the people He created. I hate sin because it denies the best life from ones whom God loves. Yet it is my task to speak in as much love as the Lord gives me grace to speak. That others may be drawn to that love and want all the best God has for them. Anger and hatred, course speech, and unseemly humor never drew anyone to the grace of our good Lord. You are the light of God in the world. Let your light shine.
This past Sunday’s paper had an article about the growing need for civility in public life. It reminded me of a little book I had seen written by George Washington in the 18th century called Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. He gave 110 rules as a guide for interaction between people. During the presidential debates one of the commentators must have felt the need for this because he asked the candidates if they could say one positive thing about each other. I think both were taken aback a bit, but both did very well with a positive comment. It might do all of us well to read Washington’s rules, or go back even further to the Scriptures and their call for humility, for considering one’s own sins first, for guarding one’s tongue, and even for considering the needs of another before one’s self. It certainly won’t solve all the world’s problems, but may allow us to look more calmly for a better path. And, for us, it will be a witness to the Lord we serve.
We had the opportunity yesterday to tour Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in Virginia. At the book rack in the gift shop was a book Washington had written entitled Rules for Civility and Decent Behavior. I thought, “what a necessary little text that is for our time.” We live in a me first world, where civility and concern for others too often get pushed aside in everything from telephone etiquette, to sales clerks, to driving practices, and more. We can all fall into bad habits, but how we interact with others should be a concern for us. Our standard of conduct is not what is the norm or acceptable in the modern world. Our standard is what brings honor to our Lord (Colossians 3:17), and what displays the fruit of God’s Spirit to others (Galatians 5:22-23). It is not that God is watching ever move, and will zap us if we do something wrong. We are called to reflect the love of Christ, and we do that primarily in all the small things of our daily lives.