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Our Quest for Civility

Definition of civility: Formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.

It may be true that we have lost civility in our culture and instead everything we do today is drawing up battle lines. There isn’t an avenue of life where this doesn’t happen - people are always ready to fight. However, the question I have, especially when it is applied to the Church, is are we trying too hard to be civil and thereby avoid the honest truth?

Matthew 23 has always fascinated me where Jesus confronted the religious leaders of His day by calling out their hypocrisy.

The Pharisees kept trying to find significance in their ability to know and keep the Law, yet they failed to see that their religion wasn’t about God, it was only about how well they walked out the Law. This is what happens when religion rules our lives; ultimately religion forces us to conform to a practice that brings us significance. Jesus confronted the religious leaders of His day in Matthew 23 and called out the hypocrisy of those religious leaders:

Matthew 23:  A Warning Against Hypocrisy

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

Religion has a civility about it that makes people feel good about the practice of it, but that kind of civility can still be a form of lying to oneself.

Jesus was not civil in how he addressed the Pharisees. He called them hypocrites. Jesus said that everything they did was so they would be seen by others in order to be honored and admired. You twist the truth in such a way that your followers become just as hypocritical as their teachers. You have become petty and myopic looking for fault and surrendering to your criticism of others because they are less disciplined in ordering their lives, as they should. Jesus even called these religious leaders snakes, deserving the fires of hell. (So much for civility!)

Jesus doesn’t want a crowd of religious followers, because He knows they are too consumed with themselves and less determined to please Him with sacrifice.

Jesus knew that a person who is religious would have a hard time denying themselves, picking up their cross, and following Him. There is nothing to gain in sacrifice; no one is going to pay attention to you when you’re not on the top of heap in the religious circles. Who is going to care about you if you are not the pastor of the largest church in town? Who is going to pay attention to you unless you have influence of a large media audience, and people flock to come to hear you speak?  Who is going to pay you the honor, and give you resources unless you are the best at what you do? You want that success and you are willing to be religious and practice religious things to get it.

Well you are practicing civility to get your coveted positions, resources, and honor, but God has little influence on anything you do.

Sad isn’t it?  Our religious endeavors can be just as scheming and conniving as anything we see or hear in the world, we just have more civility about it, and with the correct marketing it can sound very honorable.

Jesus is looking for followers who are battle hardened in sacrifice, finding significance in honoring God by living their lives for Him.

May God help us find our way home to the meaning of the cross, for without it we will never change, nor will we ever change the world.

Keeping it honest and truthful…K



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