Civility in Word and Deed

If you’ve heard any term used recently, especially in the past elections, the word civil, or civility, has been front and center. There are those advocating how we must be more civil to one another, while others advocate a lack of civility will be normal for them until their demands are met. The concept of civility means to be polite, courteous, or kind to others, whether in words or actions. Certainly, few would argue that relationships would be benefited if such an attitude would be practiced, but even though it may be recognized as constructive to be such, it seems fewer and fewer are actually willing to do so.

For us as Christians, we are familiar with showing respect for each other. The golden rule is based on this concept; “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12). Paul wrote, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10). He would also add, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). Scripture enjoins us as children of God to act and speak kindly to each other. This is true because we are to be imitators of God, and to walk in love (Eph. 5:1-2). We are to possess the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5), to think about life from His perspective, and to respond to others from such a spirit.

Why is this such a hard thing to do in our world today? Perhaps it has to do with too many Christians allowing the world to influence how they live rather than God through His word. If we are not spending time in Scripture, if we are not knowledgeable of what Scripture commends to us regarding our speech and actions, then the world will dictate terms instead. As the world is not governed by the will of God, but by one’s desires and sinful inclinations instead, a lack of civility is normative for behavior. Such an example is offered in James 4, where he speaks of what happens when the will of God is rejected and the way of the world emphasized instead. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:1-4). How sad that everyone wants to be treated with respect, but so few are willing to show it!

The system of the world has always, and will always, be based on sin, which promotes selfishness and from such, a lack of civility as people’s desires get in each other’s way. This is simply how sin works. When God is rejected, this is what happens. If we really want to see an increase of civility in our society, then we need to humble ourselves and allow God’s will to direct our paths (Jas. 4:7-10). We have taken for granted people will act civilly and courteously to each another. Seeing the fruit a lack of God plays in society, we understand what an important role God plays in society, what a fundamental part His will plays in everyday living. Genuine love and caring are integral to living in Christ, but absent from living for the world. We need to emphasize once again the practical value Scripture has to our quality of life today, and certainly eternally. “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Pet. 2:17).

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” 

Robert Johnson