Friends. Brothers and sisters. Beloved. Saints. Little children. These are the names by which the Christians of the New Testament addressed each other. There is not a mean, belittling, or thoughtless word among them. They are intended to convey affection, love, respect. We have a lot to learn from their examples.

In the dark age of rancor and divisiveness in which we live, too many people resort to the kind of name calling that doesn’t belong in an elementary schoolyard, let alone in political discussion, social conversation, or interpersonal relationship. Those who feel powerless or disenfranchised have no more excuse for taking cheap shots at those with whom they disagree than do the most powerful people in the land. Spare us both from the vile rantings of the left and the sanctimonious protests of the right. Both sides are wrong in their treatment of others, and, whether they are willing to admit it or not, they know it.

There may be little that you and I can do to influence either politicians or comics in the hopes that their approach to those whom they oppose might take on a more civil tone. There is, however, a great deal we can do to sweeten the air that immediately surrounds us. Speak softly. Smile often. Demonstrate genuine concern, especially for those who can do nothing for you. Treat everyone with respect.

These may be civil values, but they are elevated to a higher plane when exercised because of our faith in Christ. We are called to treat every person as someone of worth, created in the image of God. It may sometimes be difficult, but we are given the power to show love through the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. You may be surprised how well you can treat people when you ask God to help you do it.

I am not convinced that we will emerge from our current state any time soon. (The historical period known as the Dark Ages lasted about six hundred years.) But light can continue to shine in the darkness. Let your little light shine.