Jurors want courtroom lawyers to have some compassion and be nice. Johnnie Cochran
When you go to to the DMV to renew you license, do you ever say “I hope I don’t get the nice officer?” When you are out at a restaurant and the server is rude, do you think “Wow, I’m so glad I didn’t get the nice one?” How many of you hope that your kids will get the *nice* teacher at school as opposed to the one who never smiles? Why does it matter?
After our 10 day bus trip, we remarked about the niceness and cooperative nature of our traveling companions and tour director. In other words, nice people made for a pleasant experience.
In the past 9 years, we have written post after post about rude, condescending, arrogant know it alls who become incensed when a member of the congregation asks a question or makes a suggestion. These stories often end up with the congregant being given the left boot of fellowship along with a church discipline letter to make sure that person knows that he should never do something like that again.
What is it with certain groups and leaders which seem to believe that being rude and harsh is necessary in order to save the people of the world from hell? Somehow being nice is not seen as a *gospel* value by *serious* Christians.
Do you think I’m exaggerating?
“Jesus doesn’t want you to be nice” touts a youth pastor on TGC.
Today, the Guy behind the Curtain and I had the first of a series of meetings as we begin to redesign the website. We are serious this time. Today we discussed some preliminary steps, one of which involved the revamping of our blog commenting rules. Knowing I was going to write this post, I thought the first rule should be *Be nice.*
Yesterday, at The Gospel Coalition website, I found the following post: Jesus Doesn’t Want You to Be Nice by
Kris Fernhout, taken from the Rooted website. Let me attempt to sum up his argument. Kris gave what he thought was an insightful lesson on the Sermon on the Mount, complete with the example of Jesus loving others so much that He gave his life for others. Please note the age of the student.
As my group talked, I asked them a simple question, one that get asked all the time: “So how do you think Jesus wants you to live tomorrow when you’re at school, home, and with your friends?” There was a moment of silence and then one middle schooler spoke up and said, “I think he wants me to be nice to others.”
Now, if you’re a youth pastor like I am, you’ve heard this kind of answer more than you care to. But this particular time, when I heard my student say “I think he wants me to be nice to others,” I nearly lost my mind. I couldn’t believe that this was the take-away after we spent time in the Sermon on the Mount, talking about how when Jesus said “love your enemies,” it was something he’d personally live out while suffering on the cross.
He then rallied them together to slap them upside the head for this response which he found to be sorely lacking.The following are his points, nicely rebutted by me.
He defines nice as “cordial, ducky, swell, amiable, courteous, polite and unpresumptuous.”
Yesterday, I tweeted out my thoughts on this post. One person said that in fact, kind can mean nice!
The online Thesaurus says a synonym for nice is kind. Also, there is a difference between “That was a nice dinner” and “She is a nice woman.” The context of the word *nice* determines which synonym to use.
“Nice is literally the least you can do for someone.”
I think he missed the boat on this one or else he is living in some sort of *swell* community in which every middle school kid is nice to all the odd ducks in their class, the DMV office is filled with cheerful attendants and clients, and no one ever cuts off anyone on the roadways.
I have heard many sermons in which the pastor confesses to being a bit irritable towards others when he drives. (This is one of those acceptable sins to confess.) In fact, being nice in this circumstance means thinking sympathetically towards the other driver. Let me give you an example.The day after I found out my daughter had a brain tumor, I was riding back to the hospital, 7 month pregnant, crying. I forgot to signal when I turned into someone’s lane. No accident occurred but the man in other car kept leaning on his horn and giving me the finger. Ever since that day, I have given the other person the benefit of the doubt, often wondering if they, too, are having an awful day. Being nice would mean learning to swallow one’s anger that someone had the audacity to cut you off.
Not only do I remember middle school but I remember the middle school experiences of all three of my children. I watched kids mistreat others (this was a Christian school), make fun of those who were different, etc. It is so hard for the ones who are not being hurt to be nice to those who are. Sometimes those who do show kindness end up on the wrong end of the teasing themselves. How many kids have you read about who have committed suicide due to the unrelenting bullying that takes place in the school?
That middle school kid told his pastor something radical but the pastor was a bit caught up in his own *lesson plan* that he didn’t understand that being nice is not an easy trait to acquire at that age. Kudos to the kid! Middle school kids need to learn how to be nicer.
He says that being nice is what the world wants you to be.
Ummmm… not the world that I see around me. The world expects us to try to get ahead, even at the expense of others. As one person in my former church said “God is not calling me to be concerned about a group of teen boys who were molested.” In many churches, there are pastors who punish those who don’t understand their *vision” because, in their minds, their vision is far more important than some dumb congregant that just doesn’t jump when they are told to jump.
A new franchise opened up near me and offered, for the first night only, $4 off their burritos. They were mobbed and the line stretched out the door into the pouring rain. People in the line were, in general, polite. However, one woman went out of her way to ask the people on the line how they were doing. She wished them well and cheered them on. The atmosphere changed immediately. The servers were smiling and laughing and people began acting nice to those around them.
All around me I see people behaving badly, exhibiting a “disagreeable” and “cold* manner towards others when they didn’t get what they wanted. Those two words are antonyms of nice. Those who are not nice are mean, unfriendly and disagreeable. So Jesus does not want us to be nice? I don’t think so.
He says that being nice is not living a new life.
Here are his examples of Jesus not being nice. I am going to disagree with him.
Jesus gave us a model for living. He wasn’t just nice to the man they called Legion and cast out three of the multitude of demons possessing him. He wasn’t just nice to the paralytic who was lowered through the ceiling on a mat, only healing his legs and not his sins. He wasn’t just nice to the unnamed woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, letting her silently sneak away without healing her physically, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Jesus was nice to the man when He cast out his demons. Leaving him to suffer with the demons would not have been nice.
- Jesus was nice to the paralytic man. He healed his paralysis and went on to heal his sins.
- Jesus was nice to the woman he healed. He showed her love and compassion and helped others to see that as well. My guess is that she was bullied and ostracized which wasn’t *nice.* I bet people started treating her much better after her encounter with Jesus.
My daughter is a trauma nurse and she is one of the nicest people that you could meet. She has to do medical things to people that can cause pain but she has never not *been nice* to her patients while doing things that hurt.
Why do people assume that you must stop being nice when you deliver the gospel message to others?
Here is one comment that I received on Twitter.
First of all, there are lot of words that aren’t in the Bible and that doesn’t mean that they are unacceptable. *Trinity* is one of those words. Secondly, the word *kind* is a synonym for *nice* in the English language.
One can share the gospel and do so nicely. They are not mutually exclusive.
Let me leave you with an example of a pastor who was, and continues to be, not nice as he implements his agenda at his church. Andy Davis, at FBC Durham, wasn’t nice. He came to that church and played along with the folks in the church who had women as elders. But, he is a true blue Calvinista and implemented his agenda in the typical Calvinista fashion. I call it the *scorched earth* approach. I have two dear friends who were on the receiving end of his arrogant and condescending manner. These two wonderful, godly Christians were called, along with many others, *wicked* and *unregenerate.* You can read our story here and also read Davis’ feature on the SBTS website.
Here’s the deal. Davis was unkind, not nice, arrogant, nasty and repulsive when it came to his treatment of his brothers and sisters. This is one guy who needs to learn the word *nice.* In fact, I think Jesus would tell him that he should try to be nice, lots and lots nicer. Not every doctrinal disagreement needs to be fought with knives and grenades. We can all be lots nicer and I think Jesus would be pleased.