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Jesus wasn’t Nice
By Will McCabe

Do you remember hearing from your parents to be nice if you wanted gifts from Santa? How he discerns between those who are naughty and nice? As a result, we are impressed early on with the notion that we are supposed to be nice. But what if I told you that’s not Biblical?

Yeah, what if I told you that nowhere in the Bible are we asked to be nice to one another? There is no commandment that we are supposed to be nice, no demand for us to smile ear-to-ear to our neighbor and ask them how their day is going.

Most of you are already disagreeing, and some of you are already searching through your Bibles in an effort to disprove me. Good, that saves you some time when I ask you to look in your Bibles.

First, let me ask? What does it mean to be “nice”? Well, we define nice as being good to one another. However, that is such a vague, nonspecific, and muddled definition that we apply it to everything. For example, we aren’t supposed to hit people because that’s not nice, we can’t call someone names because that’s not nice, and we don’t lie to people because that’s not nice.

However, when we use “nice” in those contexts, we are substituting other words and preventing ourselves from understanding the actual reasons why we don’t do those actions. We are commanded to not hit others not because it’s “not nice,” but because it hurts others, and the Bible commands us “Thou shall not murder” and that the Israelites were told that for every action would be a reaction, and that punishment would be an “eye for an eye.”

We don’t say it is wrong to call someone names because that’s “not nice,” but because it is an act of pride and an attempt at separating yourself from the person you are mocking. 1 Peter 5:6 states “humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time,” and Deuteronomy 10:19 says “you also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”

The reason we shouldn’t lie is not because it’s “not nice,” but because one of the 10 commandments is: Do not give false testimony against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16). Not only that, but Deuteronomy 16:20 says “Pursue justice and justice alone, so that you will live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

Have you noticed that these passages never say anything about being nice? Instead, they use terms like “justice," “love,” and “humble.” These are terms which are discussed heavily in the Bible. We draw some of these concepts when we created the term “nice.” However, “nice” is an oversimplified, secular term which gives us the excuse not to do anything to accidentally hurt anyone’s feelings.

Let’s look at the perfect “nice person.” They always compliment someone, never say anything slanderous or mean about someone. They don’t bring up controversial or depressing topics, they don’t offend people, they don’t correct people, and they don’t get angry.

Now let’s look at Jesus, who came to Earth to be the perfect Person. He spoke about false prophets and deceivers who would attack His followers, rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees, told the disciples it would be easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than a rich man to go to Heaven (Mark 10:25), and flipped over tables in a temple and drove people out (Matthew 21:12-13). Wow, I guess by the world’s standards, Jesus wasn’t very nice.

However, does that make Him bad? Of course not! We aren’t called to be nice! He healed the sick, cared for the “least important” people, and was willing to suffer and die for us. Why did He do this? Because He humbled Himself by becoming man, He sought justice for the sin that was plaguing us, and loved us so much that He was willing to suffer and die to take our sins away.

When we try to be nice, we don’t correct people when they are making mistakes. Proverbs 9:8b-9 says “rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man, and he will learn more.”

When we try to be nice, we don’t want to tell individuals they are going to go to a bad place if they don’t follow our belief system. It isn’t nice to tell someone they are going to Hell! However, John the Baptist was brave enough to tell the Pharisees and Sadducees “even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10).

We find ourselves trying to be nice because we want to be liked. As kids, we are told that if we aren’t nice, no one will want to hang out with us, or we won’t get gifts from Santa. The reasoning behind being nice is not about others, it becomes about us. Compare that to how we are supposed to act: rebuke, correct, and even sometimes get angry, because we are to care about other people’s souls. Jesus said the second most important commandment was to love our neighbors as ourselves. We must do this in spite of knowing we will be hated: Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name (Matthew 24:9).

We should still be respectful of others, and while there is such a thing as righteous anger, we shouldn’t find ourselves purely criticizing people for their behavior, especially if we are doing the act ourselves (Matthew 7:1;3). There are certainly ways to correct or suggest in a loving and respectful manner. Just because we aren’t called to be nice doesn’t give us a pass to act like jerks. 

So next time you see someone who didn’t smile to you the way you wanted, or didn’t entertain your conversation to the half hour you were hoping, or told you that your idea to make mittens for snakes is stupid, instead of thinking how mean that person is or how he needs to be nice, ask yourself this: would Jesus really think or tell you that mittens for snakes is a good idea?

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