I can’t remember who said it, but one of my favorite quotes is “The gospel is offensive enough, we do not have to be..” The problem is that too many believers are seen as offensive. We can tend to categorize (or even justify) our “offensiveness” as honesty, or speaking in love.
Richard Mouw’s book challenges this view. In this updated version of his book first published in the early 90’s Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility In An Uncivil World , Mouw argues that Christian’s need to cultivate civility.
Does this preclude Christian’s holding strong convictions? Not at all. Civility does not require that we discard are strong convictions or doctrinal beliefs, but it does mean that we change how we present them and how we act in discussing them.
Does civility mean we have to like everybody? No. But again, it does mean that we must be aware of how we treat others, even those we find hard to get along with or even dislike.
Regardless of who it is we are speaking to; regardless of how we feel about them; regardless of what they believe, we are to treat them, as Mouw powerfully points out, as persons who are created in God’s image who are still within reach of divine mercy.
This is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it is only something which is ‘grace’ empowered, and it is something which we need to work at daily.
Oh how I wish many in the church would read this. Too often we come across as angry and arrogant as well as offensive, both in terms of our witness and in our everyday life. We have the truth. We have the Gospel. Let us begin to present the truths of scripture with love, compassion, with civility and let our loves mirror this even in rush hour traffic, or the crowded mall. The years of Christian experience and service flow from Mouw’s pen in this book, and we should listen to him as an elder of the global Church.