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I think Christians are too nice.
Go to church, any church, and everyone is nice. Big smiles and hand shakes for everyone. Some churches hug a lot. Perfect strangers hugging. Lots of perfect strangers hugging.
They kind of mash all of the fruits of the Spirit into one thing… being nice.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
I think many Christians confuse nice with kindness.
- Kindness speaks the truth even if it hurts a lot, nice just lets you keep living a lie in hopes you’ll figure it out.
- Kindness sits you down and listens to your pain, nice adds you to the prayer list or gives an empathetic response with no follow-up.
- Kindness invests in a young leader for the long haul, nice smiles as you fail.
- Kindness invites you over for dinner, nice says, “Good to see you.”
- Kindness tells you when your idea sucks, nice wishes you well without believing in you.
- Kindness gives you space to grow, nice expects you to gloss over the yucky parts.
This list could go on for a while but the point is clear: Nice isn’t a biblical virtue, kindness is.
When I describe a neighbor as “nice” it really means that I don’t know them all that well. “Oh, their nice…” That means they smile and say hello as I walk by with my dog. Or that means that they turn their light on at Halloween.
I’ve found that my best friends aren’t always nice, but they are kind to me. They tell me the truth no matter what. They listen when I’m hurting. They invest in me beyond what I can do for them. They make time for me. They tell me when my ideas suck instead of letting me fail. They expect me to grow and give room/time for that to happen.
But people in my life who I’m just nice with? Yeah, none of that is consistently true.
As I reread the Gospels this summer I was overcome by this reality: Jesus wasn’t all that nice, but he was deeply kind.
There’s a difference. Nice rips a whole in the Gospel and backfills it with religious jargon and feel good sand. Kindness stops you in your tracks, bandages your wounds, heals your dysfunction, pisses you off with its truth, confronts the lies of those in charge, and charges forward towards a new Kingdom reality.
Oh, that we would be a people of kindness!
Prayer: Lord, make us Christ followers who are kind. Help us forsake the nice for the full power of the Gospel in our lives, families, and ministries. Amen.