Friday, October 13, 2023

Guidelines for Civil Discourse: #1 - Love Others

Flicker, in my back yard

(I don't read what people post on social media. I don't have time to do this. I am on Facebook, but I unfollow everyone except my family and our church staff. 

I'm not on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumbler, Snapchat, or Whatsapp. Or anything.  

I post this blog to Facebook. Some respond to my blog, and I often interact with them. Thank you.

I have always been a culture-watcher. I am interested in human behavior. I study moral behavior and its sources like a madman. I am interested in how we Jesus-followers should live and act and have our being. 

I have personal experience with humans abusing each other verbally. Even among Christians. Even, sadly, at times, me.

This post is about how someone who claims to follow Jesus should conduct themselves, in any medium, in all human interaction.)


If you are a follower of Jesus, this is for us. 

Though the world fails in civility, we must engage in civil discourse.

Our foundation for civil discourse is love. We are to love others, in our behaviors. With the love of God, exemplified in Jesus. We must love like Jesus loves.

This includes those who disagree with us. It encompasses our enemies. They are among our "neighbors."

Love is the sign, the mark, that we are what we declare we are; viz., Christians. If we don't love, we have nothing. (See 1 Corinthians 13) If we don't love, we don't have our identity, at least in the eyes of others.

Jesus affirms the call to love in John 13:34-35:

“A new command I give you: 
Love one another. 
As I have loved you, 
so you must love one another. 
By this everyone will know 
that you are my disciples, 
if you love one another.”

People will know that you and I are with Jesus as we love one another. If we fail to do this, we will be considered to be far from Jesus. Or, people will think of Jesus through the lens of our rudeness and uncivility.

When Christians hate one another on social media, they fail to display what is supposed to be their distinguishing mark; viz., love. When we get disgusted, show irritation, demean, mock, slander, ridicule, or bully, we dishonor people made in God's image. And bring shame upon our Lord.

Francis Schaeffer, in his classic The Mark of the Christian, writes:

"We are to love our fellowmen, to love all men, in fact, as neighbors. 
All men bear the image of God. They have value, not because they are redeemed, but because they are God’s creation in God’s image. Modern man, who has rejected this, has no clue as to who he is, and because of this he can find no real value for himself or for other men. Hence, he downgrades the value of other men and produces the horrible thing we face today—a sick culture in which men treat men as inhuman, as machines. As Christians, however, we know the value of men. 
All men are our neighbors, and we are to love them as ourselves. We are to do this on the basis of creation, even if they are not redeemed, for all men have value because they are made in the image of God. Therefore they are to be loved even at great cost." (Schaeffer, pp. 15-16)

It is clear, is it not, that in all our discourse with people we are to love them. This is the higher ground, where Jesus was suspended on a cross.

The love principle applies even when in sharp disagreement with others. Remember that to love is not equivalent to affirmation, and that disagreement is not a justification for hatred.

My books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (co-edited with Janice Trigg)