“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1–3).
We are living in very volatile times. It’s not just the pandemic, racism, injustice, election year… it’s the way people are talking to and about one another. Many have described America as a “post-Christian” nation. Although it’s not entirely true, one of the evidences they can point to is the lack of civility, grace, patience, kindness, forbearance, and gentleness. Those who write about these things are talking about people IN the churches just as much as those outside. They claim that deeply held religious beliefs are a key driver of incivility. I wholeheartedly disagree. I don’t think the problem is that we hold too tightly to our religious convictions (sanctity of human life; sacredness of sex inside of a heterosexual marriage; etc.). I don’t think the problem is that we hold too tightly to our biblical beliefs, I think the problem is that we don’t hold tightly enough to biblical behavior. Rather than walking in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7), walking as children of light (Eph. 5:8), and letting our light shine so others will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Mt. 5:15-16; 1 Pet. 2:11-12), far too many professing Christians are justifying living like those who are in darkness.
We have an incredible opportunity in the midst of these difficult days to put the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ on display. In the way we treat our enemies and our friends, we can show forth a changed heart in our actions, words, and actions. We can show the world how to disagree and dialogue in a gentle, understanding way (Prov. 15:1-4; Eccl. 9:17; 10:12). We can respond to insults and false accusations with patience, kindness, forbearance, and truth spoken in love (Eph. 4:25). We can put aside slander and abusive speech (Col. 3:8) and choose words that are gracious and edifying (Eph. 4:29; Col. 4:6). Our mouths that bless God can also be used to bless others created in His image (James 3:9-10).
This is important outside of the church and it’s important INSIDE the church. One of the most troubling areas where this lack of civility is showing up is in response to the Coronavirus. A friend of mine shared a well-written article from the Gospel Coalition addressing this issue. Please read this article and prayerfully consider how you can diligently preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and how you can encourage others to do the same. At a time when civility is declining, let the light of Jesus Christ shine through His unified, loving, civil church.