"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." -- Proverbs 25:11
A noble and worthy call for civility in speech and actions currently reverberates across our land to cleanse the air from the pollution of foul, abusive and vitriolic language laced with poisonous profanities.
From parents who board school buses and curse the drivers to the brimstone eruption by a United States representative equating Republicans to an infamous Nazi, fiery rage leaves decency in the ash heap.
Alarmed by antagonistic words from all sides, two Christian leaders, Charles Colson on the right and Jim Wallis on the left, issued a joint statement calling on the nation to "re-examine the tone and character of our public debate."
They contend that Christian believers must lead the way by example and cite the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as an extraordinary exemplar. He "persisted in the nonviolent treatment of his adversaries, hoping to win them over rather than to win over them."
Many forget that Dr. King was first and foremost a Baptist preacher controlled by the Spirit of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14). He preached, "Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
Many others in the Christian faith also speak and practice the way of love. The guiding principles of the Rev. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, were, "Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God."
Wesley never retaliated or returned the vile speech and violence hurled against him.
On the other hand, our nation, from its beginning, has a long history of inflammatory speech and acrimonious actions toward others. Examples are multitudinous. In 1777, Georgia political opponents Lachlan McIntosh and Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, dueled after McIntosh called Gwinnett "a scoundrel and lying rascal."
McIntosh shot and killed Gwinnett. Scorching words boiled over into violence.
Jesus diagnosed hateful speech and brutal actions as coming from the heart. "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean" (Mark 7:21-23).
When the heart is decayed, the rotten tree falls from the slanderous wind.
Maybe our country will heed the clarion call for civility. It's going to take a heart change by implementing the great commandments to love God and love others.
Perhaps our nation that seems to have rushed pell-mell to expel God from our culture and institutions can fully embrace the author of love and kindness.
Perhaps this generation can write a new history of one nation under God with civility and respect for all.
The Rev. Dan White is pastor of North Columbia Church in Appling, GA. firstname.lastname@example.org