Updated: Aug 18, 2022
Imagine with me for a moment a world, a country, where everyone routinely practiced civility. What an amazing world that would be to live in! There are many definitions of the word civility, but this is the one I like best: "Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements." The question is this, how do we live peaceably with those we strongly disagree with? Fortunately, Scripture gives us a very effective answer to this question.
Colossians 3:5-15 is a longer passage than I normally include, but it is so profound, I felt I needed to share all of it. Here is how Paul addressed a deeply divided group in Colosse:
"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."
There is really nothing for me to add here, except that this is obviously a difficult way to live. Our human nature rebels against this kind of life. We all have a broken part of ourselves that is itching for a good fight. We want our side to win! But the Bible calls us to stop taking sides and to put on a new self that is focused on moving the kingdom of God forward. We have a higher calling than any political party or ideology. That calling is to spread the goodness of God to all people. We do this through "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." Scripture is far more concerned about how we do something than what we accomplish in the end. Anything that we do in the spirit of "anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language" is not of God. The world already has enough of that.
So I'm calling all of us to do our best to live out these words from Colossians 3. The world cannot afford for us to be at our worst in this moment of history. We must be at our best if we are to be part of the solution. And in my opinion, Colossians 3 is a beautiful vision of what our best can look like. Take a moment to read the passage one more time. Read it as a prayer, asking God to fill you with the Holy Spirit so that you can be this kind of person.
I invite you to go beyond civility to active love. May we each live and speak in such a way that we bring hope and healing to the world around us. (If you'd like to hear a more in-depth message on this topic, you can find that here: How to Love People Who are Wrong Sermon).
May the peace of God rule in your hearts this week.