Wage Peace with Wisdom: Practice the Four R’s of Civil Discourse
by Rick Love
Are you fed up with hate speech, inflammatory rhetoric, and uncivil discourse in politics and social media? We in Peace Catalyst International are… so we are beginning the Waging Peace Campaign!
We wage peace because peacemaking is a battle. Overcoming evil with good or seeking to end a conflict non-violently demands strength and fortitude. We choose to:
- Wage peace with wisdom
- Wage peace in love and
- Wage peace beyond security
Will you join the Campaign? Help change the angry, polarizing climate by becoming a powerful force for peace!
(PCI staff provide formal trainings and teachings on peacemaking - an average of 9 a month! Contact us if you want to know more about this).
Today I’d like to get you started on some practical ways to wage peace with wisdom. One of the keys to this is to explain, promote, and model the four R's of civil discourse:
If we take the Scriptures seriously, we will “show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17 NIV).
When we get an angry email, an outlandish facebook post, or have an intense debate face to face … let’s resist the temptation to “fight fire with fire.” Even if the other person's words are hateful and evil, we can still show respect.
Let’s remember that all people are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28). We should see the face of God in everyone and treat them with dignity, whether Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans, Caucasians, Democrats or Republicans (and the list goes on…).
Relational communication is loving communication. “Let all that you do be done in love,” says Paul (1 Corinthians 16:14 NAU). We speak and write in such a way as to manifest love and strengthen the relationship.
So when we face controversy or conflict, we remember to attack the problem, not the person. We are commanded to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking the truth means we can debate issues and expose problems. In fact we must do so! But speaking the truth “in love” means we seek to be winsome. There should be no angry edge to our communication.
Like many of you, I receive criticism on facebook and I am tempted to respond in kind. (Yes, I get angry at some of the outlandish statements I read!) But I have made it a personal rule to never respond quickly. I take time to ponder and pray.
I often thank people for sharing their views. Then I like to ask questions to make sure I understand their concerns. Questions also help people think more deeply about their statements. Sometimes these questions expose the error of my critics. Sometimes they open the door to deeper, meaningful dialogue. Either way, questions are good and help keep us focused on the problem rather than the person.
By the way, asking questions was central to how Jesus taught and communicated!
The God of truth commands us to love Him with our minds, so civil discourse should be reasonable. This means that we engage in dialogue and debates by presenting facts and giving arguments for what we believe.
Reasonable people weigh the evidence for a position and change their mind if persuaded – which leads to the last R of civil discourse...
When we engage in civil discourse we should be receptive to other viewpoints. Proverbs repeatedly says that the wise person receives reproof - which means wise people are eager to learn and grow (Proverbs 12:1, 15; 15:31; 19:20).
The four R’s of civil discourse can be summed up in one word: WISDOM. The book of Proverbs and the letter of James teach that wisdom is about both our wording and our being, about a discerning mind and a gentle heart.
Let’s use these 4 R’s of civil discourse to wage peace with wisdom!