what is civility? (#1)


Tomorrow morning I’ll lead the 20/20 class at MoSt Church in the start of a study of civility. This first session is entitled What Civility Is and Is Not. Following are twenty questions and ten Scripture texts (along with a pointed reference in Sirach in the Apocrypha) that came to me as I prepared for tomorrow’s session.

Twenty questions

1. What is civility? How would you define it? Can you think of synonyms or words that are components of it?

2. What is civility not? That is, what sort of behavior is sometimes confused with being civil?

3. Is civility limited to what we give to humans or is it also something we can extend to all of creation?

4. What is the goal, or the objectives, of being civil?

5. What happens to a people as they lose civility? What happens when you take “civility” out of “civilization?”

6. What benefits accrue as people grow increasingly civil toward others?

7. Would you say civility is generally on the rise or on the decline in our nation? What evidence would you offer?

8. In what ways do you commonly see incivility paraded and applauded today in our society?

9. Is it possible to be a truly mature adult, to be fully human, and not habitually practice civility toward others? Similarly, is it possible to love as a Christian and not show civility?

10. Tell us of a recent experience in which someone’s civility made a real impression on you.

11. Would you say civility is growing or shrinking among Christians in our country today? Why?

12. Is civility primarily inward, outward, or both? What happens if we make it only one or the other?

13. It’s easy to be civil toward people with whom we share a close, positive relationship. And we can understand how it’s often hard to be civil toward those with whom our relationship is negative. But why is it sometimes hard for us to be civil toward strangers, people completely unknown to us?

14. What does our willingness, or unwillingness, to extend civility to someone say as to how we value human life?

15. Many who are civil have few convictions. Many who have convictions aren’t civil. What does this say to you?

16. What Scriptures come to mind when you consider that Christians should be known for their civility toward all?

17. Do you have to “like” someone in order to treat them with civility?

18. How does Christian civility differ from nationalism and ethnicism?

19. We’re often uncivil toward others without even knowing it. How can we minimize that occurrence?

20. How can heightened awareness of God’s constant presence affect someone’s practice of civility?

Ten texts

Don’t mistreat or oppress an immigrant, because you were once immigrants in the land of Egypt. Don’t treat any widow or orphan badly. (Ex. 22.21-22)

You must rise in the presence of an old person and respect the elderly. You must fear your God; I am the Lord. (Lev. 19.32)

The righteous care about their livestock’s needs, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel. (Prov. 12.10)

A sensitive answer turns back wrath, but an offensive word stirs up anger. (Prov. 15.1)

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. (Matt. 22.37-40)

Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. … If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. … Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good. (Rom. 12.16,18,21)

Love is patient, love is kind … it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints … (1 Cor. 13.4-5)

… submit to each other out of respect for Christ. (Eph. 5.21)

Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. (Phil. 2.3)

… learn how to control your own body in a pure and respectable way. (1 Thes. 4.4)

One quote

“Put yourself in your companion’s place, and be considerate in everything. Eat what’s put in front of you like a normal human being, and don’t chew rudely, or you will be hated. Be the first to stop, to show your good breeding, and don’t be gluttonous; otherwise, you will offend.” (Sirach 31.15-17)

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