Two somewhat bizarre observations spoke to me about the type of leaders and witnesses we are called to be.
Observation #1: The numerous green, magnetic bumper stickers saying, “Choose Civility” on the cars scattered throughout my home county.
Observation #2: The traveler alert from the Bahamas, warning its citizens about the dangers of traveling to the United States.
So, here’s the line that connects the two for me. We in the U.S. are seen by many in other parts of the world as a nation of compassion, peace, and civility. A place where people can openly voice their disagreements and not be thrown into jail or killed. A place where we can practice freely four different faiths on the four different street corners of a city intersection anywhere in the country. A place of welcome and respect for our diversity.
But more than anything, we are–or have been–a model for civil behavior. And I fear that that is changing.
Rather than “using our words” (as some teach their children), we use our fists (or guns, in some cases.) Rather than channeling our anger into non-violent protests as Dr. King called us to over 50 years ago, we choose violence.
Maybe that is why when the families of the Amish children who were gunned down in their one-room Pennsylvania school in 2006 forgave the shooter, it seemed to be extraordinary. When it shouldn’t have.
In a civil society, we as leaders must practice one of the most difficult behaviors we know–that of forgiveness. It’s hard to miss how many times Jesus forgives people throughout his ministry. It’s central to who He is and who He calls us to be.
In fact, it is the only Way.