One question we must ask is: “Why do I need to have a civil dialogue with people who think differently?” If we refuse to have civil dialogue, does that mean we won’t have a conversation at all? We may think, “No matter how hard I try, I will never convince the other they are wrong anyway!” Instead of trying to understand the other’s position, we often force our thoughts down the other’s throat, or we relent and quietly fade away. Those alternatives are often the ways of the Christian, which means they are the ways we are too often perceived.
However, being uncivil, and being quiet aren’t our only options. There are many Christians who are patiently working to understand others, being slow to speak and quick to listen. They are culture changers who know that relational authority and influence are developed over time while building trust, both in private life and in the public square. Here are just a few of these culture changers who I deeply respect: my pastor, Brady Boyd; the former president (from whom the term “convicted civility” comes) and current president of Fuller; friends at the Global Immersion Project; Krista Tippett; and Glenn Packiam.
Please don’t hear me wrong. While being civil—patient, slow to speak, quick to listen, and respectful of others—we can also hold our convictions stronger than ever. Convictions are the marriage between our passions and beliefs. Some people have convictions. Others are civil. I’m hopeful we can learn to do both from the man we respect the most.