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Christian Living

Be Kind, Not Nice

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.

Galatians 5:22-23

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. 

 

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

13 replies on “Be Kind, Not Nice”

If you do a quick search through Scripture for the word “nice,” you won’t find it. Ever. The NLT does use it a few times in OT, but always in a negative connotation, such as Isaiah 30:10:

“They tell the seers, ‘Stop seeing visions!’ They tell the prophets, ‘Don’t tell us what is right! Tell us nice things. Tell us lies.'”

Niceness in Christianity is a symptom of moralistic therapeutic deism.

Adam thanks for this. Sometimes I get so discouraged by the gospel of niceness that we see so often preached today. The gospel of niceness? Yeah. Most people call it the social gospel. It’s the gospel unless the gospel – the story of Jesus – is proclaimed. Being nice isn’t enough.

Kindness reaches beyond it. Kindness is so much more powerful. It’s too easy to be fake through being nice. Kindness however doesn’t lend itself to being fake.

I think you’re right. But I’m not sure we should call it kindness. Let’s call it love and let’s make it the most significant thing that sets followers of Christ apart from the rest of the world. Kindness is fine, it’s a virtue, but love, love dies for your brother. Love goes the extra mile and is full of kindness and mercy and gentleness and harshness and call-you-out-on-the-carpet-when-you-screw-up-ness. Love is the ultimate. Love endures. Love is kind, it is not always kind. Love may never be nice.

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