I don’t think any of us would deny the fact, that every news organization is in some way biased in their reporting of the news. I find it sad, that the days of Walter Cronkite are over and along with it any trust we may have that our news is in any way impartial. Personally, I can make the necessary adjustments by taking into account that each has their own bias when it comes to reporting the news. What I have difficulty with is the lack of civility they all seem to have towards one another.
Civil discourse, once the hallmark of a caring society has all but disappeared in our world today. To have a civil dialogue with one another is when we can disagree without disrespecting or degrading one another. It is more than being polite, polite people will say to themselves that they are silently ‘agreeing to disagree’ thinking that it is somehow more noble to protect our relationships by not saying anything, than it is to have the kind of discussion that honors both sides and brings understanding to our differences. If we fail to discuss things it causes our assumptions to grow and with it our mistrust which leads ultimately to our resentment of one another.
It would seem that little time is actually spent on communicating a particular point of view and more time is spent on dehumanizing those on the opposing side. To dehumanize means to treat (someone) as though he or she is less than human. The dehumanization of a society happens when two sides can find nothing that is redeemable in the other. We all need to re-learn what it means to be civil, to agree to disagree without being disrespectful, to really attempt to understand and be able to correctly articulate what the other is saying. We must find a common ground, so that our differences can be resolved. To get by the talking-heads and the angry rhetoric and see the other as one’s who are loved by the same God we serve. If we see others as being somehow less deserving of God’s grace than ourselves we cheapen that same grace as it relates to us personally and we ultimately betray our own faith in God.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mathew 5:38-48.
It doesn’t seem like we have to define someone as being an ‘enemy’ for us to not be influenced by the virus of incivility that is sweeping our country. After a while, if we are not careful, we may find ourselves surrounded, as author Brené Brown defines it, by only those who fit into the dreaded…CEI syndrome, Common Enemy Intimacy syndrome which is; ‘I don’t know you, don’t care to know you, I’m just glad you dislike the same people I dislike.’
The dreaded, ‘tax collector’ syndrome, loving only those who love you back, influences Christians more than we like to admit. Having a civil discourse with those we ‘mostly’ agree with can be uncomfortable but having that same conversation with those we know we will never agree with can seem overwhelming. Not every discussion we enter into is going to be with those who are susceptible to reason. There are some who have allowed their hearts to be hardened to such a degree that they are incapable of hearing and receiving truth. In Eph. 4:18, Paul says, “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” That is why we are encouraged to, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Col. 4:6
We are called to be ‘peacemakers’. Being a ‘peacemaker’ is the character trait we must possess if we are to confront those who struggle with the truth, but we do it in a godly manner. I know how difficult it is for many of us to confront someone. Those who show such kindness are called peacemakers. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:17-18). When we tap into the wisdom of heaven we become peacemakers; the true sons and daughters of love. Peacemakers are those who are entrusted with restoring peace, Godly Civility, to individuals and nations.
If we do not in love measure every argument against, God’s truth and righteousness, we only settle on a peace which is nothing more than a disappointing truce. Settling on peace for “peace’s sake” compromises God’s word and takes the person further from the heart of God. Peace that costs us nothing will often cost the other person everything. It is not that Christians love conflict, but that we love truth more. A true Christian will never forfeit truth and righteousness in exchange for personal comfort.
To be a peacemaker you must be both confrontational and an instrument of conflict resolution. Peacemakers will never succumb to allowing a person to live a lie for the sake of their own personal comfort. At the heart of peacemaking is a culture that honors the individual to such an extent that it speaks the truth in love, lifting a person into a higher place. Jesus showed us how to “love the Lord our God with all our hearts, soul and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves.” It is in this tension between confrontation and conflict resolution where we find the heart of true discipleship.
It grieves God’s heart when we do not speak respectfully one to another. For God has placed within mankind a conscious desire to connect with one another in a positive fashion. It is not God’s plan that we would ever dislike, injure or in any way alienate ourselves from one another. What parent wants to see their children not getting along. There is a crisis in our land for an authentic spiritual connection to happen among those who inhabit God’s creation. The concern God has for all mankind is shown in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 where Paul says, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” It is impossible to hear one another if all we are doing is shouting at one another.
As Christians we need not to be caught up in the hyperbole that is sweeping our nation. It is time to stand to our feet and be the voice of reason in a time of lawlessness. We need to have an authentic and rational dialogue about the problems that face our country. We cannot demand that we be understood if we are not willing to listen and understand others, seeing them as God sees them.
Our prayer is that God will pour out upon each of us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we may know Him and the incomparably great power that is available to all of those who believe. And may the eyes of our hearts be enlightened to the hope to which he has called us. (Eph. 1:17-21) Much love,