Because of Love

"Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. 
Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 
But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 
This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins" (1 John 4:7-10, ESV).

Have you ever has someone push "speaking the truth" about the Gospel and the source of a transformed life. And by "push," I mean beating people over the head with truth. 

Insensitive. Unkind. Unloving.

I used to be one of those people.

But God changed my heart. 

The Lord reminded me that yes, Jesus is "the way, the TRUTH, and the life" (John 14:6). but also, Jesus died for us because of His love.

Who am I to beat people up with truth 
when God's own Son died to teach us what true love looks like?

I must always speak the truth—clearly and courageously.

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).

But I must remember to love extravagantly, just as God loved me.

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:11).

It's pretty simple. Speak the truth ... in love and because of love.

Is God teaching you this truth too?


What Happened to Civility?

Back in April of 2009, in a National Public Radio interview, Mark DeMoss told host Michel Martin, "On both sides of any issue, I'd like to see us increasingly wage ideological battles with words and ideas and not with volume and antics."

The interview came about in regard to growing resentment about the Obama candidacy, but DeMoss, a public relations strategist and consultant, spoke of the incivility in both parties.

"They're just shouting," DeMoss said. "And I don't know what we're accomplishing except ... sort of feeding the media beast." 

DeMoss, disheartened, eventually disbanded the Civility Project (co-founded with Clinton adviser Lanny Davis). The project was formed in an effort to calm the vitriol in that election. He told The Times the political divide had become "so sharp that everything is black and white." This is a shame, because the three tenets of the project were so simple:
  • I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
  • I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
  • I will stand against incivility when I see it. 
Sadly, many of the nasty letters DeMoss received regarding his efforts were from fellow conservatives. "Many of them could not be printed or spoken in public media due to vulgar language and vicious personal attacks," he said.

Once again as we view the political spectacle, we're seeing a lack of civility in the public discourse.

These additional words DeMoss shared with The Times might have been spoken viewing recent protests and disruptions in campaigns:

"Whether or not there's violence, 
whether or not incivility today is worse than it's been in history, 
it's all immaterial. 
It's worse than it ought to be."

This is a crazy election year. The anti-Establishment sentiments run high. Disrespect reigns. A spirit of rebellion is in the air and it is feeding behavior that disgusts and appalls many on both sides of the political aisle.

Michael Hyatt wrote about the disrespect that "poisons the presidential race." He acknowledges, with a nod to history, "American politics is rowdy." But we should count the costs, he said, to these "feisty tactics" and realize the damage it does to the American political system.

"Civility might be rare in US politics," Hyatt wrote. "But the American people deserve better ... None of us is served by these tactics. It encourages the worst and deprives us of statesmanship in a time when we need it most."

As a Christian, I've been thinking about this for some time, and especially as the incivility escalates. There is a great deal of variation in the Bible, as well as current culture, about what it means to be civil.

In a "What would Jesus Do?" moment, I thought about the Savior's responses to others. His strident discourse (Matthew 23:1-36) against the hypocritical Pharisees sounds like incivility. And yet Jesus never sinned. With holy zeal, He overturned tables because merchants had contaminated the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13; John 2:15). Yet again, Jesus never sinned. Righteous anger is not sin.

People wondered where He got the authority to engage with such force (Mark 11:28), but this was the normal behavior for God's prophets. They upset things. They weren't very tolerant of unrighteous attitudes and actions.

That doesn't mean we can promote aggressive civil disobedience or even violence. In our culture, tolerant discourse is prized. Or it least, it was.

We've become pretty thin-skinned and intolerant when people don't agree with our ideology. We take offense where none was intended. We think disagreeing equates to arrogance and hate.
I am looking to the balance of scripture for my own perspective on civility.
Yes, there is Jesus' zeal and what our culture would call "intolerance" regarding evil and injustice. And certainly, as the Son of God, He had the authority to call out sin wherever He saw it.

But at other times Jesus spoke out with quiet wisdom, convincing men and women with truth, and practicing true compassion. He saw each person as they were: made in the image of God yet marred by sin.

Likewise, we need to stand for truth with love, and conversely, love with the truth. Jesus could stand for truth so passionately because He "so loved the world" that He would even die to conquer its evil and bring us salvation and peace (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:14).

Paul took on false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:11-14) and pulled no punches regarding the Cretans (Titus 1:12-13). Peter and Jude also spoke sharply against false prophets and dissenters (2 Peter 2; Jude 1:3-19) in ways that would likely shock our culture's more "tolerant" sensibilities. 

There is definitely a cultural dimension to civility, and we cannot claim for ourselves those behaviors that are proper for Jesus, the Son of God, and we may or may not want to emulate the leaders of the early church when it comes to civil discourse.

The balance for me comes in loving truth, practicing love, and remembering some other passages about civility:
  • "The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools ... The words of a wise man's mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him" (Ecclesiastes 9:17; 10:12).
  • "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29).
  • "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger" (James 1:19).
  • "With it (our tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. ... My brothers, these things ought not to be so" (James 3:9-10).
  • "But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth ... Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person" (Colossians 3:8; 4:6).
  • "So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding" (Romans 14:19).
The silly season of politics can descend into foolishness and overbearing, destructive behavior. These days, attacks are the "norm" of election cycles rather than insightful discussions and evaluations. Unfortunately, those who determine not to be brash don't get headlines.

But Christians, we know a better way ... 
and we need to live to honor the One who loves us.

We can ask God to make us courageous to stand for truth, and behave in ways that honor God.

We can pray for civility in our culture, and we can make a personal commitment to become more civil ourselves. 

What do you think about civility and the elections? How should Christians respond?

Graphic, PourquoiPas, pixabay.com.