About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Incivility Among The Civilized

 

The word "civility" has been in the news of late.  It has become obvious to me, especially in America , that cultural civility is on the "eve of extinction."  Now there's a good title for a blues song, don't you think?  Whether it is an insignificant lonely teenager on his cell phone in his bedroom or a prominent politician in his office on his cell phone, behaving and speaking in an uncivilized rudeness has become culturally fashionable.  

  

The word "civility" means to act and speak in a polite or courteous manner.  The New Testament has much to say about acting, speaking, and living in a civilized manner. 

 

Titus 1:6 says this:

 

"Since an overseer manages Godís household, he must be blameless ó not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain."

 

Titus 2:2 to 6 reads:

 

"Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.  Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.  Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled."

 

Ephesians 4:2 says this:

 

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

 

Note the words that express civility in the above passages.  They are: not overbearing, not quick-tempered, self-controlled, temperate, humble, gentle, reverent, not slanderous, and patient.  These godly character qualities are fading into extinction, and why?    

 

Our present trend towards rudeness in the western world is in direct relation to our culture's rejection of the Biblical consensus that once restrained incivility.  It should not, then, surprise us that the once Biblical influenced West is becoming uncivilized, even backsliding towards a past paganism that dominated ancient civilizations centuries ago, but again, that should be no surprise. 

 

What should surprise us, and even irritate us, is that many Christians are incorporating an incivility into their way of life, especially their speech, as seen in their Tweets and comments on Facebook.  The Bible, by which we claim to live, says this should never be. 

 

1 Peter 3:10 says this:

 

 "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech."

 

Titus 2:7 and 8 reads:

 

"In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us."

 

As the above passage implies, there are those who oppose us as Christians.  Any incivility of speech on our part will brand us as being hypocritical and will damage our credibility as Christians.  Imitating our uncivilized surroundings destroys the reason for our existence.  It disables us from being the effective representatives of Jesus we are called to be, but maybe that is to be expected. 

 

I do not know how close we are to the end of this age, but 2 Timothy 3:1 to 5 predicts widespread incivility in the last days.  It reads: 

"But mark this:  There will be terrible times in the last day.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God ó having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with such people."

All of the above passages, and others like them, make it clear.  As Christians, we are called to be a Biblically civil countercultural community. We are to reflect the very essence of Jesus in our lives, something that is foreign to our western world.  When we lose our countercultural distinctiveness by imitating those we are to influence, we fail to be that which we were called to be.  The Word of the Lord is clear.  "'Come out from among them and be separate,' says the Lord" (2 Corinthians 6:18). 

 

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