It is God’s will that your honourable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. (NLT)
In our earnest and legitimate desire to speak the good news about Jesus to as many as possible, we might run the risk of being seen as obnoxious crusaders. Our enthusiasm can come across as aggression; our faith can seem like arrogance. In our desire to point people to helpful answers to life’s deep questions, we may sound as if we have all the answers.
We do live in an age when good manners are in short supply when it comes to public debate. Respectful discussion is replaced by point scoring, sensitive listening by hurtful shouting. And it is not enough for Christians to simply accuse opponents of such things. We too can be guilty.
Civility begins when we begin to increasingly recognise the brokenness in ourselves and the common humanity we share with those who oppose us. This can too easily be reversed: we figure we have true humanness whereas others fall woefully short.
True witness involves true humility. Others may mock our belief in a risen Jesus or a personal Creator. Others may wonder how we can belong to anything as corrupt as a church. Others may reckon the Bible is out of touch and laugh at our respect for it. But may they never accuse us of gross bad manners.