What a word. Not extinct, but certainly endangered in our time.
How is it this word has virtually vanished from so much of what claims to be Christian representation or conversation?
Humor me and reflect on it with me for just a moment, won’t you?
If Christians are the embodiment of God’s love, then surely the clothes that body wears must be civility.
Or to use the metaphor of Scripture itself, Christians are God’s people clothed with Christ. If this is so, then surely civility is the respectfulness and the modesty of Christ, our apparel.
If there is nothing greater in the world than God’s love, then civility is one way his people express his love, magnificently so in terms of simplicity and wondrously so in terms of effect.
Further, since the way we love all others gives evidence of our relationship to Christ, ought we not as Christians then excel in civility, like no one else to compare?
And if we as Christian will do so for no one else, should we not seek to excel in it for the sake of those yet to believe?
For if those who are yet to believe do not first encounter civility in our ways with them, how then will they come to see anything further of God’s great love for them through us? Will they not rather, be blinded, if not repelled, before they can even grasp his goodness?
Yes, civility must then be the vanguard of our expression of Christ’s love. It is what makes the ever important “first impression” with all with whom we have dealings. It is what provides conveyance of the aroma of Christ in us. It is then, our first love language, forming our words that are most truly heard and remembered.
May all who wear the name of Christ consider their ways carefully in terms of civility without ceasing and may his words, and those of his Spirit, speak afresh to us with penetrating power:
“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)
“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 …” (1 Cor. 13.4-5)
“… with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” (Phil. 2.3)