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Has technology hurt our civility?

“Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; for the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us].”
James 1:19-20, Amplified Bible

Canberra, Australia —
The house was dark and quiet when I woke up to the sound of rain. Joel was still deep in sleep. I carefully slid out of bed, put on my faithful worn jumper and tiptoed into the kitchen. The gentleness of the morning lingered in the air, and I breathed in the fragrance of the coffee, rich and dark.

Mink Gough | In The WordI wrapped my hands around the cup, and I sat, still, dwelling in this moment of peace and quietness.

We live in a fast-paced, microwave-it society. Everything is just a click away. We are wired and equipped to do multiple things at the same time — talking to someone while watching the news on TV and replying to a text message on the phone.

Digital technology has benefits. What would Joel and I have done during the months apart if the only way to communicate was snail mail? How would I keep in touch with my family in Thailand through real-time, face-to-face conversation without Skype or Facetime?

Technology allows news to travel faster than light. We learn about war in Syria, the election in America, a nuclear program in North Korea and the refugee crisis in Australia. We hear about a gay marriage protest, a pro-choice campaign and a movement in support of euthanasia. Everyone has an opinion, and we are quick to defend what we stand for — sometimes with unfiltered thoughts.
‘Christ did not die so we can battle in wars of words.’
What I miss is the respect shown toward one another. I was raised in Thai culture, which teaches us to listen to our elders. When we listen, we not only gain knowledge, but we also get insight about the speakers — where they come from, what they believe and how they draw their conclusions.

James wrote his letter to Jewish followers of Christ who were dispersed among Gentiles. In the midst of troubles and challenging circumstances, he instructed followers of Christ to live lives that reflect the glory of God. Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.

Truth needs to be proclaimed. But often what we speak isn’t truth. Christ did not die so we can battle in wars of words. He died so we can be reconciled to God. He died so we can live as a witness of his love. If what we say is not edifying the body of Christ, perhaps we should take a vow of silence for a break.

A friend of mine once said to me, “Mink, I look forward to the time when we are old, when we both will sit on rocking chairs with a cup of tea in our hands and recall all the things we have done in our lives.”

I still remember his words. They paint a picture of simplicity and of peace.

One day we will be old, and our voices will be just whispers in the wind. One day we will die, and no one will care how we voted on the controversies of our day. What people will remember is how we treat them; how we show them respect, honor and dignity. The world will not remember our words.

They will remember our deeds.

, a native of Thailand, is a graduate of the South Pacific Bible College in New Zealand. Her husband, Joel, is a minister for the Canberra Church of Christ in Australia.

Filed under: Headlines - Secondary In the Word

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