With such a dearth of leadership, it’s no wonder that political discourse is at one of the lowest levels in our nation’s history. With Democrats accusing Republicans of taking America hostage and waging “Jihad” against the United States and with Republicans attacking President Obama as one who would rather negotiate with America’s enemies than with his political opponents, we are witnessing the rise of uncivil, ungracious communication, not just in the halls of Congress, but in neighborhoods throughout America. (“Graciously Communicating About Politics & Gov’t”)
Written over 5 1/2 years ago, I could never have imagined that civility in our nation would be even lower today than it was during President Obama’s fifth year in office. Of course, I also could never have imagined that Donald Trump would become the 45th President of the United States. The saying, “stranger things have happened,” will never have the same meaning.
The definition of gracious communication and civility in this current age of increasing polarization in our politics and culture will be forever changed as well. That is unless we don’t let it. Americans, particularly Evangelical Christians, can choose to speak in ways that bring honor to God while also honoring those made in His image. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree with someone’s beliefs or lifestyle, but we can model Jesus in speaking with both grace (love) and truth. Here are some rules for gracious communication — either online or in person — that are just as relevant and applicable today than they have ever been:
In exercising these rights (and others), we should remember the third truth of communicating graciously about politics, government, and our nation: Speak and Act reasonably and persuasively when communicating (particularly with unbelievers). Christians are called to let our “reasonableness be known to everyone.” (Philippians 4:5) In fact, we are to “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:13-17)
Of course, as Indigo Montoya of “The Princess Bride” might say, “I don’t think it (reason/reasonableness) means what you think it means.” The modern concept of “reason” or “reasonableness” is an intellectual argument divorced from Biblical truth. In fact, using Biblical truth in any dialogue in today’s culture (think abortion and homosexuality) makes one automatically unreasonable. However, when the Bible talks about “reason” or “reasonableness,” it means being gracious and truthful, knowing how to give just the right answer at just the right time. Believers should always be ready to give a “reason for the hope that lies within you” — the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
In addition to speaking reasonably, we are also called to speak persuasively. (Acts 26:24-32) Regardless of your religious background, everyone can and should speak persuasively about every issue, including politics, government, and our nation. To speak persuasively, we should:
Be Winsome — Do not get angry (easier said than done) and do not argue with a mean spirit (i.e., become personal in your attacks. Stick to issues and not personalities.)
Be Gracious (civil) — Even when you are attacked for your beliefs, do not return fire. Continue to argue with gentleness and respect.
Be Bold — Speak authoritatively (our authority comes from Christ and His Word.) The further away we get from God’s authority, even if that authority claims that he has “talent on loan from God” Himself, the less authoritative and reasonable we become. We might even start spouting conspiracy theories like the government is trying to enslave children by not teaching cursive in public school or progressives are infiltrating homes through dishwashers and other household appliances.
Be Polite — Speak in ways that others will listen to your argument, even if they might not agree with you. That might even mean acknowledging when the other person makes a good point.
Be Open — Never close the door on further conversations. Always be ready to continue the discussion. Agree to disagree.