Some of you may have taken civics classes when you were going through school. Civics is the study of the rights and obligations of citizens in society. For example, we would consider voting for our elected leaders to be both a right and an obligation. Today I would like to discuss civility. This word carries a somewhat different but related meaning. Civility can be defined as formal politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech, without qualification. When I say, without qualification, it means that we are to treat others with politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech both when we agree and when we disagree with them. The proper way to exercise our rights and obligations as citizens of the United States is by pursuing positive, constructive, and yes, polite and courteous conversation with other people. Christians should lead the way in both civility and civics. I will now share with you several verses that serve as a clarion call to Christians to lead the way in both civility and civics.
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Colossians 4:6 (NKJV)
As Christians, our speech should have a redeeming quality about it. It should draw people to our Savior, not turn them away. As salt acts as a seasoning and preservative, our Christ-like words can facilitate healing and restoration in our broken world. We who have come to know eternal life through Jesus our Lord, should speak and act in ways that convey that precious life to other souls.
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)
We as Christians are called to compassion and kindness. It is all to easy in this world to grow hard in heart and to adopt the world’s ways of dealing with other people. We must be reminded, however, that this is not God’s way. God has been extremely merciful to each of us. We are to share that mercy and forgiveness with others. When we follow Christ along the pathway of mercy and forgiveness, we will find great peace and blessings for ourselves in the process.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:43-45 (NKJV)
Loving perfect people would be easy. Too easy! God wanted to make this life a challenge by providing us with all different kinds of people to love. Some people are easy to love, some are difficult to love. Some agree with us, some disagree with us. Some just rub us the wrong way! Yet we are called to love everyone. This is the hard work of Christian living, isn’t it? Is there someone in your life that you are finding difficult to love? Call upon the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to strengthen you by the power of the Holy Spirit to love them for the sake of the Kingdom. None of us deserve God’s love and mercy. Who are we then to withhold that love from others?
1Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NKJV)
Did you notice in the verse above that “first of all” we are to offer prayers and thanksgiving for all men and women, to include our government leaders. All too often though our first action is to criticize or complain. We need to change our thinking on this, because our prayers can soften the hearts of other people and make them open to God’s guidance. Our harsh and sometimes unfair criticisms have the opposite effect. May we never forget that even the politician with whom we disagree is a sinner in need of a Savior. God desires that ALL men and women would be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. When we are tempted to harshly criticize a government leader, would we instead pause to pray for them, first that they would know Jesus as Lord and Savior, and next that they would govern in such a way that the people of God could live peaceably and continue to carry out God’s kingdom work.
In closing, brothers and sisters, let us lead the way and show the world the way to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Let us model kindness and compassion with one another and with those outside of the church that the world may know that Christianity is true, practical, and immensely helpful.