We live in a society today that idolizes being nice. Being nice can gain us influence, keep the peace, win new friends, keep old friends, help us with our reputation or how others see us. However, niceness can take the teeth out of our witness and the power from our faith. When we choose nice over faithfulness, we bear fruits that are bland, bitter, and empty. And most importantly, God never calls us to be nice.
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The Tension Between Being Nice and Our Faith
Have you ever noticed a tension in your life between being nice and your faith? For example, do you feel tension between your self-image and your relationship with Jesus? We live in a world where it benefits us to be nice because everyone likes nice people. Our friends like us, our employers promote us, and our leaders affirm us. Niceness has become a virtue in our culture, so much so that we will forgive a character flaw in someone as long as they are nice to us.
This constant tension between nice and faith can make it confusing when it comes to our true motives for being nice. Sometimes we label nice as grace or kindness when our true motives are more complicated than that. It’s not always clear if we are being nice because we love Jesus or because it benefits us to do so. However, it’s easy to be nice instead of truthful, obedient, or bold. That’s what makes being nice so hard because it can appear as authentic faith making it tough to identify in ourselves. It looks kind, joyful, hopeful, and good. Being devoted to nice instead of Christ will eventually bear fruits of inauthenticity, cowardice, self-righteousness, shallowness, corruption, and more.
Niceness is Deceptive
Niceness can put on a façade that everything is great, healthy, and joyful. However, underneath it all our souls can be rotting away. For example, if we pour ourselves into different church ministries, volunteer opportunities, committees, all just to be nice, our souls are uprooted and we aren’t actually growing. This is the deception niceness accomplishes. It obscures the true state of our souls and can be pulled off for quite a long time. Eventually over time our true character will show through.
Niceness is Self-Serving
Self-Serving can be a surprising and confusing underlying motive of niceness because nice comes off as a service to others. However, when we don’t say the honest thing or the hard thing it’s usually in order to preserve someone’s feelings and ours. Niceness, even in its sweetest form, is not ultimately motivated for love of others. This becomes clear as soon as it’s rejected, snubbed, or doesn’t benefit us. When niceness is no longer to our advantage it becomes very clear that is was ultimately all along about us. True love and true kindness on the other hand, are willing to count the cost against ourselves out of love for others.
Nice vs. Kindness
Author Barry Corey in his book, Love Kindness, makes a helpful distinction between niceness and kindness. Barry uses a ball shape to help illustrate his point about these different characteristics. He begins by saying that aggression has a firm center and hard edges. Niceness has soft edges and a spongy center. Kindness is the middle ground between that two as it has a firm center but soft edges. To put it another way, kindness has the softness and warmth of niceness but it also has conviction, courage, and a solid backbone. It doesn’t shrink or change in the face of conflict because it is after something deeper and more valuable than being accepted or getting along.
Niceness cannot hide its fruit forever. Sooner or later it’s rotten fruits of inauthenticity, corruption, cowardness, and shallowness show through. If these begin to creep up in our life it’s a red flag that we may be more devoted to nice than Christ. You know as well as I do that it’s not enough to just pick the rotten fruit off the tree and think everything will be fine. We have to get to the root of the problem and cultivate a better tree.
This is why this message matters so much, because over my next few blog posts I want to instill a Holy dissatisfaction with a false faith of niceness that prevents you from accessing true freedom and power centered on Christ.
We live in a world that is desperate for actual courage, honesty, deep kindness, and sacrificial love. Nice Christianity cannot accomplish those things. So please join me next time as we step into true Christ center kindness.
Matthew 7:17-20 – 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (NIV)