I’m sure I’m not the only one frustrated by all the negativity and vitriol that assaults us from all directions these days. People make pronouncements about other people, ideas, and events as though they have personal knowledge of each thing. They offer their opinions as facts that must not be disputed. With our instant electronic access to the world, it is easy to broadcast your reaction to any and all situations before thinking about what you’re saying or the implications of your words. Often times, even our leaders are poor examples of courteous public discourse.
But, just because there are sad models of good behavior doesn’t mean we must follow that example. After all, we live in a country that values freedom, and God has created us with the ability to choose freely how we treat each other. Not only that, but he has given us lots of instruction.
Don’t use foul and abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
What would happen if we let that verse season our conversations? Verses 31-32 of the same chapter go on to say, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Just pause for a moment over the last phrase of that verse. How much has God forgiven you through Christ? For me, it’s a whole bunch! That verse made forgiveness much less difficult for me to extend to others.
Once upon a time, a friend told me a phrase that has served me well. He said, “Take everything as a compliment; then you’ll never be insulted.” Now I don’t always manage that, but I don’t take offense often. It lets me make a positive out of a negative, and that’s what I think is needed. It’s the beginning of a code of conduct that invites me to think the best of people first.
In his opening talk for the annual Global Leadership Summit this year, Willow Creek Community Church Pastor Bill Hybels addressed what he believes is one of the most damaging trends harming the United States: incivility. Hybels said, “How do we lead in an era of run-away divisiveness and disrespect? The solution has to begin with me.” (https://churchleaders.com/news/308098-bill-hybels-incivility-even-christian-leadership-killing-us.html)
The solution does have to begin with us. These verses say that it is our responsibility to bring encouragement with our words so they will benefit those who hear them. We are to rid ourselves of bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander. We are to be kind to each other, tenderhearted and forgiving as God in Christ forgave us! Could you begin to develop your own code of conduct using these verses as a starting point? Perhaps it could look something like this:
- I will rid my speech of harsh, vindictive language.
- I will seek more to understand than to be understood.
- I will speak words of encouragement often.
- I will always respect the person in front of me as one made in God’s image.
- I will cultivate kindness and an attitude of forgiveness.
How could your relational world benefit from a code of civil conduct?
Is there someone you need to forgive, or ask forgiveness from?
Think and pray about developing your own code of conduct. Write it down and post it on your computer screen. Make it a screensaver on your smartphone. It shouldn’t be complicated, but if you have a plan, you can respond rather than react.
Lord Jesus, I am overwhelmed by your grace, mercy, and kindness to me. While I was still a sinner, you died for me. Help me to remember how much I need that forgiveness every day, and help me to be willing to extend forgiveness to those who challenge my beliefs and values. I need help remembering that you love them just as much as you love me. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord my God. Amen.
This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people who God used to start CedarCreek 21 years ago, and was on staff until 2013. She and her husband Mike love to travel the country in their motor home with their kitties Jane & Mary. Lauri is passionate about prayer, and about helping women discover who they are in Christ. She doesn’t tweet but you can follow her and Mike’s adventures on Facebook here.
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