Nice encounters Love

Being nice has become a core value of our age. It is hard to argue against what superficially seems so good. Nice however is rooted in selfishness, with its fear of what people will think and its desire to be liked and gain influence over others.

An example of the difference between nice and love is seen at Jesus’ trial (John 18&19). Pilate has a choice between what his inner being tells him is right or giving in to what the voices of the self-righteous demand. It is a choice between the aspirations of the heart and the fear of hurting the feelings of influential people with the consequent loss of influence.

The contrast with Jesus’ love exposes the shallowness of ‘Nice’. Jesus knows Pilate is being driven by the manipulative forces of the religious leaders, yet He does not try to out manipulate Pilate. Rather, Jesus challenges him with a question that helps Pilate gain perspective. He goes on in love to risk His life by explaining himself with truth that leaves Pilate a clear picture of what is right.  Tragically Pilate gives in to evil.

Only when I trust the Sovereign Lord can I entertain love. He takes me beyond the immediate circumstances. He takes a stand with love, truth and righteousness and invites me to stand with Him. I can do so because I know He has my back.

Let’s despise niceness, this shrivelled and poverty stricken imitation of love and stand with God in truth and love.

Read the Bible study that inspired this Blog.

Nice or Kind?

I have often been ‘Mr Nice Guy’, yet niceness is not godliness. I read up on the difference between nice and kind and was shocked by how different these two words are, when most would consider them synonymous.

My reading suggested that ‘Nice’ has its origin in conflict avoidance and is worked out through fear and selfishness. Since ‘Nice’ avoids conflict it is subject to manipulation from anyone who forcefully demands what they want. Nice tries to arbitrate between factions, while failing to ask, ‘What is or is not acceptable?’

Kindness has its origin in the love of God. The love of God looks for peoples’ development into godliness and love. It recognises a person’s condition with compassion, but is not so patronising as to accept that state for the long term. Those who know God, recognise the grace of God is sufficient to draw us out of crisis and develop godliness and love.

When ‘Nice’ meets an unacceptable situation it avoids the pain of dealing with core issues by smoothing things over, dealing with surface emotions and condemning all involved to repeat the situation. ‘Kind’, in looking for love explores the real issues at a personal cost. ‘Kind’ is willing to be the ‘Bad Guy’, confronting with God’s Truth while looking for His grace, holding people to the best. We see this consistently when Jesus encounters challenging people in the gospels –

For the son of man came, not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45 NIV)

Out manoeuvred?

How do I behave before a schemer who always seems to defeat me? When I focus on my adversary, wickedness surges up as I plan strategies to fight back. Can I surrender this person to God, lifting my eyes to Him who is my help and my salvation? If my aim is not ‘to gain control’ but ‘to be with God’ then I must entrust this issue to Him.

How does the Lord work with such hard hearts? Psalm 81 gives a rather surprising answer. He does not overpower –

‘But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.’

When we won’t listen to Him, the Lord cuts us loose to experience both the freedom we demand and the mess that follows. This sounds like something an opponent would relish for their adversary. My experience however is that it is hard to live with the mess, and harder to watch even an adversary suffer until the lessons are learned.

Psalm 82 adds an important perspective.

‘But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.’

The end for those who indulge in wickedness is eventually a fall. So we are both in danger. When I am drawn into battle I become a wicked schemer as well. The Psalmist prays,

‘Rise up O God, judge the earth.’

This request for judgement requires purity, for the Lord’s judgement will be applied evenly.