“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.” – I Peter 3:8-9.
The level of civility in our culture is dropping like a rock. Whether it’s TV talk shows or online comments on news sites and social media, we seem to have lost the ability to discuss an issue calmly and logically. We talk less about the real problems and more about the differences we have with an individual or group of people. I am a republican. I am a democrat. I am a socialist. I am black. I am white. I am Asian. The incivility increases day by day. We think more about our rebuttal then about understanding the other person. We make statements of opinion rather than asking questions to try and understand.
We get a sense of what public engagement looks like in the 1 Peter passage above. We will encounter angry, uncivil people who want attention or want power or want revenge for the wrong they perceive was done to them, real or imagined. But Peter is telling us not to play their game. He wants us to play Jesus’ game instead, being civil and experience blessing. This was at the heart of the civil disobedience of Mahatma Ghandi in India and of the black Christian leaders of the civil rights movement here in the U.S.
Matthew 5:9 (TPT) says, “How blessed you are when you make peace! For then you will be recognized as a true child of God.” Want to be a child of God in a fractured world? Get out in your neighborhood, in your workplace, in your politics, and be Jesus; but do it His way. Engaging in public life with civility and with radical love. This is our calling.
Sigh. Doesn’t sound easy, does it? When someone does us wrong, it is not human nature to return their wrong with as much love and blessing and forgiveness as it takes to change their life for the better. It would seem better to vent our anger, or forget about it and move on. But Jesus calls for a different kind of engagement, though, to look evil in the eye and love the people who are uncivil to us. This is not turning tail and running when we face contentious people. It’s just choosing a different way of engaging, one that looks like Jesus, promoting peace and blessing.
And the best part is it works. When we engage in life with peacemaking love, we’re more likely to change a bitter heart. We’re more likely to secure justice for ourselves or someone else. And we’re guaranteed to show a violent, bitter world what Jesus looks like.
- Do you see civility as passive or action oriented?
- What can you do this week to show the Jesus version of civility in an uncivil war?