God Actually Cares if Christians Are Nice People
This is the 6th Entry in a Series of Blogs called Sabbatical Musings. If you want to catch up with any of the blogs in the series, just CLICK HERE
This is likely to be the shortest blog in the series but it is a result of something that I have been thinking about for a long time that I got to really settle in my heart over Sabbatical. This thought is really not connected to any of the previous thoughts other than it came out of daily study of the Sermon of the Mount over the summer like several of these other topics did. Other than that, this is why I called the series Sabbatical Musings rather than looking for some common thread to connect these thoughts.
It's going back to several years ago now but a prominent news personality had a prominent evangelical leader on to discuss the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I won't name any names because that would sort of go against the point of this blog. But this leader began to speak of how the war lined up with what he believed to be certain biblical passages of prophecy.
I am not bringing this up to make any comments on this man's end times theology. To be honest, I don't really even remember what the view was that the man was espousing so I can't really comment on it. But that's not what stuck out to me anyway.
As the man started to speak of all of the people who would be dying imminently if the current events matched his understanding of Scripture, of which he was quite confident, then people will be dying at rates not seen since Noah's flood.
The talkshow asked: Is there anything that people can do? (AKA the easiest softball pitch to plant the Gospel deep in the centerfield upper deck ever asked in history)
And the leader answered with: Yes, repent
Ok, not a bad answer. Maybe a little blunt and lacking context but not inacurate and a pretty gutsy answer too, I thought at the time.
The leader then took his softball of a pitch and went on to share the coldest sounding, most clinical and sterile presentations of the Gospel that I have ever heard. It was "turn or burn" theology at its worst when it was handed a golden opportunity.
There was no plea. There was no cry. There was no tear shed as he talked about what he believed to be the soon death of billions. (By the way, if you know who the line "no one pleas, no one cries, no one even sheds on tear" was from, you get 10 gold stars"). Just a cold, dispassionate presentation of what we know as the "Good News" (that somehow sounded like bad news the way he was describing it) and a missed opportunity.
But it got worse.
The talkshow host asked something of the lines of, "Aren't Christians supposed to be nice?"
And the pastor's tone turned in a way where you'd think the host just talked bad about his mother.
"Nice?!? Nice?!? No, my job is not to be nice! My job is to tell the truth! JESUS WASN'T NICE!!!"
And at that moment my stomach turned. I was floored at the poor portrayal of my Savior. I was astonished that being nice was not just something that was assumed of Christians.
I imagine some might be struggling with where I am going- but don't worry, I'm getting there.
Why do so many people in our own Reformed circles have to make a distinction between "Telling the truth" and being nice?
I have also heard this expressed in these various ways:
- Jesus said hard things to people. Jesus wasn't concerned with nice.
- We are supposed to be people of the truth not people who care for what others think about us
- I'm supposed to be honest with people, not nice.
The interesting thing about statements like those is that they have a thread of truth in each of them. Jesus did say hard things to people. He did not allow what people might think about Him to keep Him from sharing the truth of His Father's Kingdom. We also should not allow what people might think about us to keep us from sharing truth. We are supposed to be rigorously honest.
But none of that requires being a jerk. It makes me sad how many people see truth and kindness in conflict with one another.
Why can't it be both? Be honest and kind. Share hard truths but do it in a way where you are actually nice to the person you are sharing it with because you see that person as an eternal being created in your Father's image. Believe in a Jesus that said some pretty eye opening things like the woes to the Pharisees (Matthew 23) and did such eye popping things like flipping tables but was also so meek that that little children flocked to sit on our Savior's lap, social outcasts felt like they could approach the most Holy One, a woman considered unclean and essentially worthless by her community thought she could break all social boundaries just to touch this radical young Rabbi and was actually commended for it by Him! Demoniacs who were chained up outside the gates of the city like a dog were made whole and then allowed to hang out with Jesus.
I could keep going but,
if you read the Gospels and see Jesus who only believed in truth and was not concerned with being so full of kindness that notorious sinners found Him enjoyable to be around, then you need to go back and read the Gospels because you have the wrong Jesus.
I am not saying that we should not speak up on issues that run counter intuitive to society and go against the grain of what is considered to be PC. As a matter of fact, our lives and beliefs are SUPPOSED to be counter cultural.
But there is a way in sharing truth where we do it in kindness to those around us. I have heard many people state over the years, "We are to speak the truth, in love" but somehow they have interpreted that as "love to speak the truth- no matter how you say it. Just get it out there".
There have been viral sermons where bullies in the pulpit are lauded for berating their eager hearers. Some of those people have also been outed as being chronically abusive people.
Some truths are just going to rub people the wrong way in today's culture:
- Biblical view of sexuality
- Biblical view of manhood and womanhood
- Biblical view on the creation of the world being by a Creator of all things
- Believing that Jesus is THE way, THE truth and THE life and that no one comes to the Father but by Him- that is a tough pill for people to swallow in a pluralistic culture.
We should be ready in season and out of season to share with those who ask, about these or other potentially hard truths.
But there is no law that says that just because something might be difficult to hear, that we have to be mean when we share about it. I realize that we live in a time where the general rule is whoever shouts the loudest is the rightest. But, c'mon man. We're called to be above that. We shouldn't be a part of that. But we ABSOLUTELY can't be known for leading the pack when it comes to loudest equals most correct.
That's where the Sermon on the Mount really hit me. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount there are several repeated themes, but one you can't get away from is:
Might DOES NOT equal right.
Jesus came to turn that world on its head. In His Kingdom, it's not "might makes right"
- Poverty of spirit makes right
- Meekness makes right
- Being a peacemaker makes right
- Being willing to rejoice while enduring persecution for righteousness sake makes right
- Being willing to mourn makes right
- Going the second mile makes right
- Turning the other cheek makes right
- Forgiving others as we have been forgiven makes right
- Giving to the needy- not judging the needy- makes right
I could keep going, but HOW ON EARTH COULD SOMEONE READ THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT AND NOT COME OUT WITH THE IDEA THAT JESUS ACTUALLY CARES HOW WE TREAT OTHER PEOPLE NOT JUST WHAT WE SAY TO THEM.
Let me just dismantle one other insane belief before I come to a close. There is a belief amongst some people that when we start talking about things like social justice, or racial reconciliation, or just something as being nice that we've "done gone liberal"
First off, let me just point out the obvious- not all people who would identify themselves as liberal are nice. I have met some really mean spirited folks who wear their liberalness as an identity flag. I have met some really mean conservatives who wear their meanness as an identity flag. Being nice or being mean is not a political ideology. There are some real jerks on all sides of the cluttered political aisles. There are people on all sides who use their meanness as an evidence that they hold the political highground.
People are weird sometimes. But anyway...
Caring about things like social justice, alleviating suffering both globally and locally, treating your fellow man with kindness and just good ol fashioned "being nice" isn't "going all liberal on ya". It's basic humanity. And it's basic obedience for people who call themselves Christians.