The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. (Proverbs 15:2 ESV) Check on virtually any web-based discussion board or comment section and you will find some great comments from polite people. You will also find the complete opposite: people who seem to pride themselves on foul language, name-calling, and useless argumentation. I was recently called a “coward” and (sarcastically) “all-knowing,” in an online discussion simply because I, very politely, used God’s Word to point out the error in another Christian’s posts. It was very difficult to remain polite.
What has happened to civility? As our society moves further from the Gospel, we can expect this behavior to grow worse, not better. And should we be surprised? In 1 Corinthians 15:33, we read, Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (ESV) We may surround ourselves with fellow believers on a daily basis, but we are also surrounded by “bad company” on radio, television, the internet, and every other form of media. Just this week, a famous scientist often seen by children on television decided to encourage Christians to stop teaching the truth of Creation to their children. Standards no longer exist, for the most part, on what may be published and when.
So, as Christians, how should we respond? It’s very easy to be drawn into negative commenting, to believe every story about a person or group we don’t like, or to see a photo which could be interpreted multiple ways and think the worst. But shouldn’t we make sure something is true before we pass it along? And even if it is true does it really need to put on public display? Isn’t this what the Eighth Commandment warns against? In our ELS Catechism, the question is asked and answered: “What does God require of us in the Eighth Commandment? In the Eighth Commandment God requires that we always be truthful and sincere toward our neighbor, excuse him as far as the truth will permit, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.” (p.74) And St. Paul reminds us by inspiration, [Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:6 ESV)
Along these lines, election season is now shifting into high gear in the United States. We are going to be continually bombarded with negative speeches, advertisements, and social media posts. As Christians, we have a great opportunity. As we engage in these conversations, we can “take the high road” and keep the conversations polite and civil, speaking of the issues themselves and how God may speak to them in His Word. There is certainly a place for argumentation and discussion and we can certainly be a part of it. In those discussions, others may make every effort to make you angry, questioning your intelligence, your morals, and even your faith. As you prepare to respond, take a deep breath and remember James’ admonition: From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:10 ESV)
We can show our faith by how we engage in discussion and how we argue. Out of love and thanks for the amazing blessings God has showered on us (forgiveness, life and salvation), we can engage others with the truth… speaking the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)