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Principled Civility: A Necessary Pursuit for the Times

God created each one of us uniquely…with talents and abilities that we can use to serve Him in His creation. With this uniqueness comes individual thoughts and, guess what…opinions. Opinions that others may disagree with and some with which we may hold disagreement. That is a fundamental part of the human condition. But what happens when such disagreements turn a corner and result in tense conflict or, worse yet, property destruction or personal harm to others? This is NOT good. So how do we address this?

In the bible, you will find instances when Jesus and, one of his most ardent followers, the apostle Paul, spoke strongly in addressing what they deemed to be contentious issues. Jesus did not mince words with the money-changers in the temple. Nor did Paul hold back when he encountered people he referred to as agitators when he said “I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.” (Gal 5:12)

Biblically-based skillset

But you will also find instances wherein they displayed a level of relational skills that were (and are) awe-inspiring. The awe is rooted, for Paul, in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And, of course, for Jesus, it is in His own divine nature. For us mere mortals, to coin a phrase from today’s lexicon, it may seem a bridge too far to reach such a level of skill. But wait! God did provide us a blueprint for us to follow. Take a look at the list of biblical tips below pertaining to civility and conflict resolution:

  • Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, (Col 4:6)
  • With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be (James 3:9-10)
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Eph 4:29)
  • Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19)
  • Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification(Rom 14:19)
  • Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. (Eccl 10:12)
  • Therefore encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thess 5:11)
  • But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips (Col 3:8)
  • The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools. (Eccles 9:17)

Parents: please take a moment and examine yourself. What do your children see when you are in the midst of a conflict? When you encounter a policy or opinion with which you strongly disagree? How do you respond? What have you said that you wish you hadn’t? (We are all guilty of this.) Kids capture more what is caught than taught. What are they catching when they witness how you respond or speak about such situations?

Begetting Relational Fruit

In my role as a Christian School Administrator, I can speak for all of our staff when I say that we are very conscious of how we speak and respond to the students in our care. That does not mean we get it right every single time. But I can say that we have that consciousness in the forefront of our minds when engaging them.

Nonetheless, the ultimate influencers are you…parents, grandparents, guardians. The ones they see when no one else is around. Keep that in mind the next time you are tempted speak about someone in a less than respectful (even possibly in an ugly) manner. Those young minds are tantamount to moldable clay. You want them to take a form that is a reflection of the set of scriptural tips outlined above. Such minds will beget fruit that will serve them well in their relationships, not to mention how they will influence others and bring a welcome generational change to our societal discourse.

NOTE: This article served as a primary source for this blogpost: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/davidrupert/what-the-bible-says-about-civility/

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