Civility, Goodwill, and Ellen DeGeneres

It is impossible to deny with a straight face that there is an abundance of  hateful rhetoric, hostility, and  ill will loose in our society.  In fact, the disagreeableness and “party Spirit” we observe on all sides is arguably the defining characteristic of today’s public discourse.  Here is  a sampling of the Biblical standard for our actions and attitude toward others.  We’re called to be tenderhearted and to:

“…be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.”  (Ephesians 4:32)

“…like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing.  For the one who wants to love life and to see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit,  and let him turn away from evil and do what is good.  Let him seek peace and pursue it,  because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil.”         (1 Peter 3:8-12)

“…as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,  bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.  Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.”  (Colossians 3:12-15)

I know how far I fall short of  the above  standards – but I’m honestly working on it day-by-day and asking God for His grace and the Holy Spirit’s power to move ever closer to the biblical standard.  And, God is good and faithful and brings into my life a continuing stream of reminders to help me improve.  One such reminder landed in my inbox yesterday.  It is a delightful article by Pastor Bob Russell.  The article  appeared first at: bob russell.org  as: Kudos To Ellen DeGeneres.  RMF

Kudos To Ellen DeGeneres

By Bob Russell

Bob Russell

Ellen DeGeneres’ world-view is much different than mine. I think she’s a talented entertainer and a likeable person, but I don’t agree with her lifestyle or political beliefs. However, I really appreciated the statement the popular comedian made last week explaining why she attended an NFL game with former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura.

The national television broadcast featured a shot of Ellen DeGeneres and President Bush laughing together. The fact that she had a good time with Mr. Bush bothered many of her fans. Some expressed anger that she would even be seen in public with a man who had been responsible for initiating the Iraq War and taking a pro-marriage, pro-life stand during his presidency. They equated her casual friendship with the Bush’s as equivalent to fraternizing with the enemy.

George W. Bush & Ellen DeGeneris

Last week on her syndicated talk show Ellen DeGeneres took considerable time to address the issue. “Some people were upset,” she admitted. “They thought, ‘Why is a gay, Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative, Republican president?’” Many angry people tweeted about the seemingly mismatched pair, DeGeneres said.

The tweet that impressed her the most, however, was a positive one: “Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again,” she read. Her audience cheered for the positivity, and DeGeneres explained she’s friends with many people who don’t share the same beliefs. “We’re all different. And I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different,” she continued.

DeGeneres said just because she doesn’t agree with someone on everything, doesn’t mean she’s not going to be friends with them. “When I say, ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean be kind to the people who think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone,” she said.

Good for her! Ellen DeGeneres’ response should motivate the rest of us to follow suit – especially those of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ. The Lord taught us to be kind to one another, to love our enemies, and to be gracious and forgiving toward those with whom we disagree. While the media intentionally stirs up controversy and thrives on fomenting disagreement, we need to be markedly different.

So…

Let’s recognize the intense culture war that is dividing America internally is more of a threat to the future of our nation than any external adversary. Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The strength of America’s past has been that we are “One Nation Under God.” Just because we disagree with someone politically or theologically doesn’t mean we hate them, or they are enemies. I have relatives who are addicted to drugs. I pray their behavior will change, not because I hate them, but because I care for them.

John Adams, the second president, and Thomas Jefferson, the third president, had sharp disagreements. But toward the end of their lives, they became good friends. In recent years Americans have forgotten how to disagree without being disagreeable. We have divided into two opposing camps hurling vicious words and false accusations that threaten to split the nation into a philosophical civil war.

So…

Let’s stop the angry name-calling and gross exaggerations.

Following Ellen DeGeneres’ explanation, a well-known actor tweeted, “Sorry, until George W. Bush is brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War (including American-led torture, Iraqi deaths and displacement, and the deep scars – emotional and otherwise – inflicted on our military that served his folly) we can’t even begin to talk about kindness”. Really? Will his vengeful spirit initiate justice? Is his intolerance extended to every member of Congress who approved the war? How unreasonable!

Until that type of hostility and hyperbole ceases, we will never be united as a country. There’s an old saying, “You become what you hate,” and it’s obvious that many who claim to oppose hate have themselves become hateful. That malicious spirit exists on both sides. There are vicious and dishonest people who intentionally misrepresent and exaggerate opposing positions in an attempt to destroy their adversaries. The end result is the destruction of all.

Admittedly, we are dealing with important and even eternal issues. But let’s quit contributing to the nastiness. The hostile rhetoric needs to stop – especially by our nation’s President, members of Congress, and other leaders who should serve as a positive examples of diplomacy and good will. And while we can’t control the politicians in Washington, D.C., members of the media, or celebrities, those of us who follow Jesus can each demonstrate it’s possible to “speak the truth in love.”

So…

Let’s bend over backward to be kind, compassionate, and gentle toward those who disagree with our position.

There is a difference between strong beliefs and outright hatred. We can disagree with people without attacking them. How are we ever going to persuade others of the rightness of our position if we don’t discuss our differences with civility? The Apostle Paul rubbed shoulders with idol worshippers in Corinth and wrote, “Love is patient, love is kind… it is not rude, it is not self-seeking …it is not easily angered… it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:4-5).

President George H.W. Bush was once listed in a negative magazine article as one of “The Top 10 Most Overrated People of the Year.” Rather than attack the editors for their disrespect, President Bush decided to throw a party and invite the other nine to the White House to celebrate their great, shared accomplishment. That’s hilarious! What a good attitude.

It’s time for all of us to lighten up a little. Develop a sense of humor. Laugh at some of Ellen DeGeneres funny jokes. Go out of your way to express kindness to those who disagree with you. The Bible says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).

About ronfurg

Former naval officer, federal investigator, forensic scientist, senior executive service member and pastor. In retirement serves as volunteer and life group leader at New Life Christian Church (www.newlife4me.com). Devoted to beautiful wife, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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