Actual Civility
By Anthony Casperson

About two and a half weeks ago, the Fallout TV show dropped on Amazon Prime. While there were some issues with the show (including a bit too much revelry in the brutality of the setting and moments of nudity that were completely unnecessary), I didn’t think the show was terrible.

I mean, I appreciated some of the writers’ attempts at tackling a few of the themes of Fallout’s world. Sure, they failed at their attempts quite often. But I appreciated the fact that they at least tried to branch out beyond the thematic “explorations” that so much of scripted entertainment has wallowed in recently.

But, let’s be honest. No one’s here for my critique of a TV show.

What I really wanted to point out is the discussion by viewers of the show. (The fallout of Fallout, if you will.) And in particular, the discussion between a few people whom I watch on YouTube.

The panel consisted of five individuals, although the two who host the show took the reigns of the discussion. This pair has often agreed on the level that filmed entertainment has reached in present days. But on this show, they disagreed.

And I mean, one was ripping the show to pieces, while the other tried to defend it. At least, when he didn’t just sit there in stunned silence and the occasional granting of a point.

While each defended their position, the other actually listened to the points being made. An action that continued as the other members of the panel voiced their opinions as well. Yes, there was the occasional attempt to speak at the same time, but one would always cede the floor to another with the understanding that their point could be voiced at a later time. None attempted to drown out the voices of those who disagreed with them.

At the end of the day, the group as a whole understood the position they each held. They disagreed, but that didn’t stop them from appreciating their camaraderie. And they remained unified with regard to the things that they did agree upon.

The fact that I point this out as something special should be telling as to how far away from peaceableness we’ve gotten as a people.

Western civilization has moved so far from civility that we make new tribes while also hypocritically decrying tribalism. Power wash away the old painted lines, while installing permanent rifts in the process. No matter which lines you want to talk about.

And one of the worst things about such a scathing reminder of civility—when it comes to we followers of Jesus—is that the Church has done this sort of thing long before it became popular in our general culture.

I’m not saying that we have to erase any sense of denominationalism or force people with disparate practical theologies to blend their local manifestations of the Church. Or into some lowest common denominator type of preaching.

But what I am saying is that there’s something that we can learn—right along with the rest of our culture—about being civil in our disagreements. We can remember that though we may disagree on some things, we can still unify around the core of our faith: Jesus, the God-man who died on the cross and was bodily raised on the third day.

While I could go to many of the “one another” passages that speak to the unity of the body of Christ, I think that Ephesians 4 wraps the whole discussion up well.

The first few verses pretty much do this all by themselves as Paul calls us to walk worthy of the manner in which we’ve been called. With a humility that thinks more highly of others than our own self-interests. With a gentle, courteous, and considerate-of-others manner. With a patient spirit. And all the while bearing with one another. That “bearing with” can include the idea of “being willing to listen to,” like how it’s used in Hebrews 13:22.

Ephesians 4:3 neatly wraps the previous exhortations by calling us to zealously and speedily make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit that binds us together in the peace of God. The wholeness of life that God brings to all we who bow before the cross of Jesus.

This is the manner worthy of our call.

One body of Christ—the Church. One Spirit of God who enlivens us. One hope in our one Lord Jesus. One faith in him, which is showcased through our one baptism. One God and Father, who is over all and through all and in all. He is our everything. Our overseer, director, and life-giver.

It’s in this unity of calling that we followers of Jesus can agree, even when we have disagreements about various things—incuding the hows and whys of some of these very topics. At the very least, we can embrace each other with familial fellowship because of this core aspect of our calling in faith.

Paul continues the chapter talking about certain spiritual gifts, which he says are all for the building up of this one body of Christ. And this building up is until we all reach the unity of the faith, and the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God. Until the body reaches maturity—the fullness of Christ, who is our Head.

And this maturity includes our understanding of the firm foundation of truth. So that the winds and waves of every new cunningly crafted “doctrine” doesn’t sweep us away from the truth of God. Doesn’t diminish, dilute, or destroy the core tenets of our faith.

Instead, we are to speak that truth of God. And speak it in love with one another. Again, unity through the unique and selfless love of God. A love that’s opposed to the ways of our world—which Paul refers to as “Gentiles.” We’re to unify in the eternal truth of God instead of the empty and fickle futility of the selfish thoughts of the world. We followers of Jesus should walk in the light of the truth instead of the darkness of the selfishness that divides and separates over petty things. Things which seek only the self and our own good—even if we wrap that selfishness up in veneer of “only thinking about other people” while what we truly want is to be universally loved people-pleasers.

As we followers of Jesus put on the new self and speak the truth of God to one another, Paul calls us to a unity that doesn’t sin against one another, even when anger might rise amidst our disagreements. We should never allow the enemy of God to split our unity in Christ, even if we have these differing opinions. Never allow the momentary heat we feel toward those who disagree become a raging fire that we feed with bitterness and hatred. Never shout and rage. Never slander or put down.

Never speak a word that is meant for the tearing down of the body of Christ whom we should build up in unified maturity.

And when we reach the end of Ephesians 4, we’re called to be kind with one another. Be benevolent toward one another. Go easy on each other. Rail on the inconsistencies of a view on the topic, instead of ripping each other apart or laying burdens on each other.

We’re to be tenderhearted. The Greek translated here is literally “have good bowels” toward each other. You know that gut-retching feeling that we have toward those we don’t like? The stomach-knotting when we think about how much that person hurt us? That’s the opposite of how we are to feel toward each other. Our bowels shouldn’t churn when we’re together.

And if one does indeed hurt us—because hurts will happen—then we are to forgive just as Christ forgave us. He treated us as family by dying for us when we were still his enemies. How can we then treat our spiritual family members as enemies? Especially when we view the One who binds us together.

At the end of the day, we followers of Jesus might have disagreements and debates. But that should never cause us to forget the unity we have in Christ. A unity that leaves us as people willing to listen, willing to understand, and willing to embrace, even after we’ve had a hearty argument about our differing opinions.

Because, after all, we still are unified by the one Spirit, one Lord, and one Father who called us.

Let’s live worthy of that calling.