By Paul Bawden
This question must be asked as we see name calling, putting down people, even threats in our world, especially when there is a difference of political persuasion.
I understand that the word civility comes from the Latin word civilis, meaning “relating to public life, befitting a citizen.” In other words, civility is being friendly and nice to everyone. When civility is shown, you use kindness and good manners. You are respectful, even if you do not like that person very much.
These words certainly remind us that what is happening in the United States and other countries of the world is far from civility. Something has happened in some people’s lives where respect for one’s political persuasion, even respect for an individual, has been overtaken by anger and hatred. Such if not checked, can lead to all kinds of problems in a society.
When such behavior occurs, I ask this question: what is the root cause of incivility that we are seeing in the world?
Certainly, we could spend considerable time debating this question. But due to lack of space, and being sensitive to your time, I will cut to the chase, and you can agree or disagree, and, of course, come to your own conclusion.
The root cause of incivility is spiritual. Jesus put His finger on the root cause of incivility when He said that out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries . . . . envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these things proceed from within and defile the man (Mark 7:22-23).
The word that jumped out at me in this list, which I abbreviated, was the word, slander, which means to defame an individual in one’s person and reputation. Such action is not only incivil, it is sin, that which breaks God’s law of respect and decency. I know that the word, sin, is not popular in the public square, for these challenges are supposedly due to one’s environment, one is a victim, or one needs more education – reformation is the key for one to become a civilized person.
These ideas in the public square, obviously haven’t dealt with the problem of incivility. That’s why Jesus also taught that a person needs to be born again, born from above, by encountering Him through faith. The individual who encounters Christ through faith, believing that He died in his place, to pay his penalty for breaking God’s law, for the wages of sin is death, and conquered the grave bodily, will receive His forgiveness and eternal life. Have you made that decision to follow Jesus Christ? (cf. Rom. 10:9-13).
The eternal life the believer receives is a new spiritual nature. As the believer depends on the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in him spiritually, that new nature will demonstrate God’s love which is accepting, kind, and respectful (I Cor. 13:4-8). Does this mean that all of us will agree on every issue and political view? Obviously, not. Each of us is entitled to our own opinion. But depending on God’s power, we can respect one another because we are made in the image of God, while also respecting one’s views, which will result in dialogue that is civil and profitable for all involved.
Paul Bawden is married and served in the pastoral ministry for 45 years, retiring in 2011. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in Speech and attended Dallas Theological Seminary, receiving a Master of Theology. He has taken counseling courses at Trinity Evangelical Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois. Paul is a lifetime member of the Evangelical Free Church of America, as well as being a member of Interim Pastor Ministries (IPM), which serves churches during their time of transition in searching for a new pastor. He writes for Union Gospel Press, as well as being a volunteer writer for GotQuestions.org. Paul likes to write, read, bike, and work in the yard. The Bawdens have had the privilege to travel to Mexico and Romania on mission trips and visited various countries in Europe.
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