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Greg's Weekly Word: "civil"

Updated: Nov 4

It's a word that most often gets associated with war, either this one...



...or (even better) this one...


(I'm definitely on Team Stark, by the way.)


But the other context in which we usually hear the word is in a plea to "be civil." I've heard this a lot around our current election, and the debates between politicians, and the division between their constituents. And usually when someone asks for people to "be civil," it just means, don't be mean. Have a good attitude. Be polite.


But if that's all it is, then being civil shouldn't be hard...and wouldn't be worth very much.


The origins of the word, however, come from the Latin civilis, which meant "pertaining to public life," or "relating to the citizen in their relation to the commonwealth or to fellow citizens."


In other words, to be civil means to look out for the larger society - its institutions and individuals - and to act in a way that takes into account all of the members of a community. Which, of course, will mean not being mean, and hopefully being kind and gracious. To be truly civil, though, we must be consider the needs and well-being of all of our fellow citizens. And sometimes that means being honest about the ways we have failed and fallen short as a society, or the ways injustice and evil persist in our community or nation or world.


(I'm writing this before the election, so I do not know how it has turned out as I am typing this. But regardless...)


As we move forward as a nation, we must be civil - not just passively polite, but honest: about the needs of others, about naming injustice and evil where they exist, about our flaws. And then we must speak and act in ways that uphold the dignity, respect, and well-being of our fellow citizens. (And as Christians, all of God's children.) We must be active agents of care and compassionate justice for all.


Or, in the words of the Apostle Paul,

Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus...

May we always keep such civility alive, no matter what happens (or happened) on Tuesday and in the days to come.


- GJD

(November 2, 2020)



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