16 Jul

from Pastor Greg Moore, Director of Christian Education St. Peter Lutheran Church

 An Encouraging Read.

Every once in a while my reading includes a book that touches me, moves me, so that I want to share it with you.  Such a book is “Christian Civility In An Uncivil World”.

One way to think about Christian education is that it is about two primary goals.  One goal is to teach or share the Word of God, especially the Good News of Jesus Christ, in order to create a faith in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.  The other goal is to nurture and grow / mature the Christian faith in a believer by the Holy Spirit.

This second goal of Christian education, is what Jesus was speaking about when he said as recorded in John 14:26, “ (the Holy Spirit) will teach you all things … “.   Another way to express this second goal would be to say Christian education leads us, teaches us, what it means to be a believer in Jesus Christ in the setting we live in, how to live our Christian faith in our culture.

This second goal of Christian education is addressed in the book “Christian Civility In An Uncivil World”.  I picked up this book edited by Mitch Carnell, with articles by numerous Christians, from our Lutheran Seminary library in Columbia.  I believe that you can ask for a library card and take the books out also.  Originally I saw this book highlighted in the library and picked it up due to what I was hearing and seeing on the television news, in terms of politics.  There was much name calling, I thought some telling of untruths, distortions, by politicians of other politicians, of politicians by news commentators.  This did not seem like civil behavior, like honoring behavior.  I believed that the Word of God teaches us as much as possible to honor all people.  I wanted to learn if these articles would shed any light on, any direction by the Spirit, about how to live our faith in our culture of political competition by honoring all people.   It did do this but it did much more.

The articles highlight the importance of being civil to, honoring, fellow Christians, especially when we are different, disagree, even strongly.  This is not an easy read, but it is an important read, and an encouraging read.  I was again encouraged to believe and hope for Christian civility toward, honoring of, all people during political campaigns, and fellow Christians at all times, even in times of disagreement, even conflict.

One of the most memorable statements in the book is about a quote from Dr. Martin Marty, a Lutheran Pastor and professor at University of Chicago.  It dealt with civility and convictions about issues.  He noted that in the Christian church, we often have people who have a strong conviction about something but aren’t very civil to others who disagree or don’t understand.  On the other hand we also have people who are very civil toward others but who don’t have strong convictions about anything.  What we need Dr. Marty said, and can have, are people with convictions who are also civil.

I liked this book of articles partly because it gives practical suggestions that can be learned and put into action.  I liked it because it does not suggest that we be marshmallows and allow ourselves to be walked on by others with a different opinion, nor that we do it to others.  Without giving too much information about the book, let me say that it shows where civility is strongly encouraged in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  With regards to our responsibility to fellow Christians, it shows that our primary task is to love them, to practice Christian friendship, no matter the situation or disagreement.  Obviously this is a very challenging task at times.

This is a relatively short book for a summer read or at any time of the year, and I encourage it because it is an encouraging read.