Civility and the 8th Commandment.

From Luther’s Small Catechism.
The Eighth Commandment.Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, nor defame our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.

Whoa, nelly what does this mean indeed!
Lately I have been pondering this commandment quite a bit. I have been noticing quite a high level of conversation in media of all kinds about civility or rather the lack of it. Oh, this is nothing new on some levels I remember conversations and magazine articles way back in my high school days on this very topic.

Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that we shouldn’t continue to talk about this but I guess I am aiming deeper that just our current state of affairs. Thus the 8th Commandment.

How easily we forget about this commandment in our discourse with one another. Often when passions are stirred on a hot topic (take your pick) we rise up on our high horses and trample our neighbor. I think we do this because we believe we are in the right,  morally, ethically and intellectually. When passions are stirred, we tend to demonize the other  to make clear that we are good and they are evil so that we might win the day. We justify our language by arguing the greater point in our opinion, in other words the ends justify the means.

I am not saying that we should be door mats nor should we let things go by untested, and unchallenged especially if there is the danger of injustice or harm to others. But I am saying what I believe ol’ Brother Martin was saying… we should speak well of our neighbor and put the best construction on everything, even if we disagree with them.

I don’t think I have ever won an argument, or changed someones mind because I yelled louder, fought dirtier or diminished another. People have changed their stance on occasion when I have walked with them, sought to understand where they are coming from and by doing so I give them the space to see my point of view. When you seek to understand, when you seek to see where others are coming from and do not condemn or ridicule them, you give them space to change, to grow and you give yourself that same space. In trying to see the best side of  your neighbor, you give space for grace and forgiveness to work. It is hard to see eye to eye with another when 0ne is sitting on ones high horse.

Here is a post that speaks about this loss of civility that I thought was interesting.


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