My family was chatting Bible over dinner one evening and I asked my nine-year-old son if he could remember the Ten Commandments.
Nate nodded and put down his fork. “Sure. God is number one. There is no one before Him. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not lie. Thou shalt be nice.”
“Whoa.” I felt my eyes bugging out as my fork paused in mid-air. “The Bible doesn’t say to be nice.”
“Sure it does,” my teenage daughter piped up.
I arched an eyebrow. “Where does it say that?”
Callie searched through her memories but threw up her hands in exasperation. “I don’t know but I’m sure it does.”
My husband interceded. “Actually, the Bible doesn’t say anything about being nice. Only that we should be kind.”
Callie rolled her eyes. “Same difference.”
It’s actually a big difference, especially when you consider what ‘nice’ actually means. Merriam Webster says this: Nice = pleasant, agreeable
God never called us to be nice, yet too many of us seem to be under that assumption. As lovers of truth and disciples of Jesus, there are many things we can’t agree with. To the world, the idea of authentic Christians often feels like the syrupy sweet do-gooderie of someone like Ned Flanders from The Simpsons. Overly-friendly. Overly-nice. Overly obnoxious. And one hundred percent fake.
Don’t get me wrong. “Nice” people are lovely to chat with, but they aren’t real. They’re plastic. Plastic people stuff down their feelings and observations. They work hard to make sure everyone feels good about themselves. They avoid conflict like a disease. They are unable to deal with negative emotions and instead let those emotions control them.
So scrap the idea of niceness. Instead, God has called us to be loving. And do you know what love does? It confronts with a gentle approach and pure motives.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:5–6).
Spurgeon once said, “True friends put enough trust in you to tell you openly of your faults.”
I get it. This living authentically stuff is hard. Honesty breeds confrontation and for a recovering people-pleaser like me, walking in truth, no matter my feelings or fears, can be terrifying, especially when I consider how my friend will react to my bumbling attempts at honesty. But we should never forget that our refusal to speak truth is often rooted in deep-seated fear. Every choice we make is based on love or fear. And when we’re focusing on our own insecurities, we aren’t considering the needs of our friends.
In order to stop the plastic mask of nice, consider these thoughts:
- Stop and ask yourself why you’re afraid to speak the truth. The authentic answer will reveal the condition of your heart.
- Jesus wasn’t nice. He was truthful. Never once do we see Jesus bowing to the opinions of others, or softening His words to make them more appealing. He loved people too much to lead them to destruction by refusing to confront their sin. If we want to walk and live like Christ, we must do the same.
- We’ll never build others up into their best selves unless we speak truth. Consider the apostle Paul. When he wrote to young believers, he often gave them brutally hard critiques. Why? He wanted more for them than fighting and jealousy, more than humiliation and degradation. He wanted to see them live the healthy life God designed. Without confrontation, none of them would be aware of their problems, repent and mature. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) Without friction, a knife cannot be made sharp.
- Nice people don’t change the world. Jo Swinney says, “As Christians, we are citizens of a Kingdom in direct conflict with the kingdom of this world. When Jesus sent his twelve closest followers out on their first mission trip, he gave them an uncompromising message to deliver and no illusions about the kind of reception they were likely to receive: arrest, flogging, persecution, death.”
The gospel is polarizing. It always has been and always will be.
It’s time to scrap the plastic version of Christianity and move toward being like the One we claim to follow…real, loving, and kind. But never nice. Anything but that.
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