As the “Nice Matters” awards have been going around, I’ve seen a little bit of negativity toward them.
Who, you might ask, would have any problem with recognizing niceness? When would niceness ever be a problem?
Well, it would be a problem if we disregarded error, cut corners on the truth, never confronted a sister in Christ who had gone astray, all under the auspices of being “nice.” When the Old Testament prophets thundered against sin in the land, they would not have been regarded as “nice.” Neither would Christ in some passages: I think if some folks took a red letter edition of the Bible and read the words of Jesus, they would be surprised to find that their image of Him is something different from what He really was. When a mother fails to deal with her child when he disobeys, she is not being nice: the Bible says she is foolish. It is actually more loving to do what seems to be the hard thing in these situations mentioned.
If you look up “nice” in the dictionary, you find synonyms such as “pleasant, kind, agreeable, delightful, refined, virtuous, respectable, suitable, proper.”
When it comes to everyday life and the disposition of Christians, I think these characteristics should be true of us. Yes, there are times when to stand up for truth is necessary and right and pleasing to God though not seen as “nice” by the world. But I have known some Christians whose chief characteristic and mission is pointing out error who have developed kind of a cynical, negative, gripy, sometimes harsh edge. I was at a Christian school basketball game once when two men behind me were commenting on a new trend amongst schools in our league of wearing two different colored socks, usually in the team colors. They were wearing them to the knee, and personally, the look didn’t appeal to me, especially on guys, but I could imagine that they thought of it as quirky, different, fun. But the men behind me saw it as a nefarious breaking of fashion rules and sense and spoke of it in the same tone as if the guys had been wearing miniskirts. I thought, “Good grief. Do we have to read ulterior motives into everything?” It took a lot of restraint not to turn around and say that.
So much of the Christian life comes back to balance. Yes, there are some doctrines and truths that there is just no room for error on, and as Christians tend to follow the world, that truth needs to be defended. I am thankful for “Christian watchdogs,” who often have a keener sense of discernment than others, who can see the errors underpinning a trend or movement and point them out to those who didn’t catch the problem. But there is no need to “bark” at everything. There are some areas that don’t involve the fundamentals of the faith where we can give people the benefit of the doubt and even allow for different opinions from our own without breaking fellowship or compromising truth.
And when it comes to everyday life and our disposition and interaction with others, I think being “pleasant, kind, agreeable, delightful, refined, virtuous, respectable, suitable, proper” — nice — certainly enhances the life of Christ we’re supposed to be living out much more than the opposite of those traits would.
Though the word “nice” isn’t in any of several Bible versions I checked, one of its synonyms, “kind,” is:
Ephesians 4:32: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Colossians 3: 12-13: Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
II Peter 1:5-7: And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
Romans 12:10: Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.
And kindness is one of God’s characteristics:
Nehemiah 9:17b: Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.