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.

Spiritual Prostitution

One of the temptations of spiritual leadership is spiritual prostitution. Ezekiel 16:15-21 spells this out. He begins,

“15 But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute.”

When Christ works in us he develops a spiritual beauty. This is seen both by those who are spiritual, and those who are searching. The beauty of Christ in us draws people to us. Since we feel esteem when people come to us, we are tempted to use what God has made us to draw people to ourselves even further.  So Ezekiel goes on,

“16 You lavished your favours on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his.”

Those who use us in this way are clothed in us instead of being clothed in Christ. So, the followers become caricatures of their leader.

As we see people being drawn to the spirituality God has developed in us, we are tempted to shift focus from the giver to the gifts making idols of them. “17 You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them. “

The final part of this process is tragic: “20 ‘“And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols.” Anything that we worship outside of Christ consumes us, so those who gather to this idolatrous ministry are sacrificed for the sake of the ministry.

God’s goodnes vs our wickedness

The great drives that push me towards wickedness are my fears and my strong desires. The antidote is trusting the goodness of God.

Psalm 34:8-10 says: Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. … The lions may grow weak and hungry but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Many who know God would acknowledge this – especially when all is well. Life however throws objections. When we feel in need our fears question these words. When what we desire seems tantalisingly in reach we can find ourselves manipulating people; so wickedness is found in us. Yet God IS good and provides what is good! When I look back on times of crisis God’s faithfulness always shone through. The problem is with the appearances that trigger fear and strong desire as we look at an uncertain future.

On an extended overseas trip I went to a lot of trouble to have phone and internet access at a manageable cost. Half way through the trip the equipment failed. Now the challenge – I felt a lack but my drive to rectify the situation pushed my family aside. Could I accept God working for good in the failure? He knew what communication was needed and how much was driven by fear. When I let go of what I thought I needed, accepting a second rate solution, God in His goodness stepped in with unexpected answers that brought completeness. His goodness shone through.