Our nation is undergoing dramatic change.  It’s happening quickly and it’s noticed by everyone.  We are connected to each other like never before, but we have never been so far apart.  There has been a fundamental shift in the way we interact with one another.  Civility and common courtesy are disappearing from the landscape of our nation.

There are likely many reasons for this societal change.  I would contend that it is fueled by social media and 24/7 news pundits, both of which have flooded our hearts and minds with every imaginable human thought and opinion, and have knowingly or unknowingly taken the role as instigator of human discord.  We are becoming a nation divided.  We are becoming a people of sound bites, absent of reasonable dialogue.  We are becoming a people eager to advance our views but unwilling to listen to the views of others.  We are becoming a people who no longer know how to defend our beliefs and promote our values without destroying those who oppose us.

This decline in civility and common courtesy is noticed on our roadways, in our schools, in the marketplace and in the halls of government.  It’s on display for all to see and hear on the airwaves and in your most recent Facebook news feed.  It’s almost as if we can’t escape it.  Such disregard and disrespect for others is becoming so commonplace that the question begs to be asked:  Where can one go to find loving, respectful and God-honoring human interaction?

Since my blog is primarily written for church leaders, the answer to the question might seem obvious.  But, be ever so careful before you assume the obvious.  The church has always been imperfect and so there are no surprises in that.  But never before, at least in my life time, has the church become so like the culture.  When Christians respond to hatred with hatred, to personal attack with personal attack, to hyperbole with hyperbole, and to inflammatory FB memes with same caliber memes, we have lost our saltiness.

Let me take this opportunity to challenge all of us in church leadership.  Set the bar high for yourself, your leadership team and your people.  When it comes to human interactions, and even human disagreements, let us be so gracious and kind that the world stops dead in its tracks and takes notice.  Following the example of Jesus himself:  “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”  (Matthew 5:39b).

Setting the bar high may look something like this:

  • I commit myself to treat others as I would want them to treat me.  This includes people with whom I disagree on important matters.
  • I commit myself to make certain my conversations are always full of grace.
  • I commit myself to put the interests of others above myself.
  • I commit myself to be quick to listen and slow to speak.
  • I commit myself to reflect Christ in my words, my tone of voice and my body language.
  • I commit myself to understand the other person even though I may disagree.
  • I commit myself to feed on God’s Word, allowing holy Scripture to inform my beliefs and values rather than allowing social media, news pundits or talk radio to be the shaper of my views.
  • I commit myself to cease from posting anything on social media, or commenting or liking any post, which attacks, demeans, ridicules, antagonizes or disparages another person.
  • I commit myself to use social media or any other form of communication to encourage others and to build up the church.
  • I commit myself to demonstrate common courtesy in the way I interact with others.

Common courtesies may look something like this:

  • Timely responses to e-mails, texts or calls.  If a church leader, or anyone for that matter, does not respond to a message it is showing the same disrespect as if not talking to someone who speaks to you in person.
  • Taking care in the wording of e-mails or texts, so as not to unnecessarily create misunderstanding.
  • Expressing thanks for the kindness shown by others.
  • Showing deference to others, allowing them to go first or picking up the tab for them.
  • Asking questions, showing you are interested in the other person’s life rather than too easily talking about your own life.
  • Taking initiative in contacting and getting together with the other person.
  • Finding creative ways to show kindness to others without any expectation of a return.

Church leaders, the answer for our nation and our world is found in Jesus Christ.  The mission of sharing Christ with the world belongs to the church.  But,unless we get a handle on this matter of civility and common courtesy, we run the risk of losing our effectiveness in the mission God has given us.  In the hearts and minds of a growing number of people, the church is being discredited by the behaviors of God’s people.  Something as seemingly small as pressing a “like” button on a disparaging post puts the reputation and mission of the church at risk.  Something as seemingly insignificant as failing to respond to someone’s message can erode the confidence of others in the gospel we espouse.   Let’s lead our people back to civil discourse and common courtesy in our relationships, and let’s commit ourselves to lead by example.  The darkness of our day will be overtaken by the LIGHT.

Here’s just a sampling of what God’s Word has to say about all of this:  Matthew 5:13-16; 38-48;  Philippians 2:1-18; Colossians 4:2-6; II Timothy 2:22-26; James 1:19-27.