I know a guy who is pretty much John Wayne incarnate. Most who know him agree. His looks, his demeanor, his voice, his values… the inability to mince words or hold in his opinion for too long. Mr. Wayne has made a few people cry. Made others look for an exit door. He may very well tell you to get a better-looking hat but he’ll buy it for you and never ask for a dime. He’s a bit softer around his grandkids but never a push-over for anyone. It’s been known that in the stormy weather of life, some grew closer to him because he was the only one not tossed around by all the nonsense. He’s the one giving the shirt off his back when you least expect it. He won’t say a whole lot of warm and fuzzy, but no one doubts he cares somewhere deep under that leathery grit.
I also know someone who is like the cunning witch, Gothel, from Tangled. She comes across as the protective “mother” who “knows best”, nicely brushing Rapunzel’s hair but in reality is a fraud, desperately trying to maintain the masquerade for her own survival. The Ms. Tangled I know is appealing, agreeable, great at kidding around and even giving hugs. She plays the Christian sister role with a smile. “You can trust me” is her favorite line. However, as soon as you turn your back you feel the sting of her betrayal. Oh, but on the surface she’s nice. She doesn’t initially make people squirm like Mr. Wayne. She’s got a softer touch, yet will slip poison into your canteen when you aren’t looking.
How many people today would take their chances on Ms. Tangled? I’ve heard it so many times; “Yeah, they have flaws… but they’re nice! They dress and speak so nicely! I know they care because they say they do… and they’re nice!”
People reading this may ask, “is being nice a bad trait?” “Aren’t we to be kind?” “Harsh truth is not good, right?”
It depends… yes….and it depends.
Being nice is defined by the world as being pleasing and agreeable. Those are not bad things in and of themselves, after all the Bible says, “Urge slaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be pleasing, not argumentative,” Titus 2:9. He also says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24
There is a time for pleasing and agreeable words and attitudes.
The problem lies within the interpretation, over-emphasis, and even the worship of what is deemed as nice today. I believe what we are seeing take over our society, and sadly our churches are the false doctrine of having to come across nice and pleasing at all times.
Nice is the Gospel. Nice is everything. Jesus can’t do anything without it.
Truth is, people just want to feel nice. They want a nice world. They want to look at nice things. They often time get onto social media and become the spokesperson for “nice”. They ask, “what would Jesus do” and then follow up with something nice.
Being nice, of course, isn’t bad in the right context. We Christians just can’t always be agreeable or pleasing.
Kindness, however, is what we are called to exhibit as Christians. Kindness is much more than just being nice. The Bible talks about kindness a lot. It’s a fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” Galatians 5:22 (See also Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:12, Acts 9:36-41). The Greek word for “kindness” is chrēstotēs, which means “benignity, tender concern, uprightness.”
Kindness is not about surface agreeability or pleasing others, it’s about compassion, gracious and truthful speech, and acts of love. Kindness is not making sure to never rightfully offend. To show kindness is oftentimes to die to self, even risk being snarled at and getting your hand bit. The end means of kindness is for the kindness of Christ to be known.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
Kind and pleasant speech as the Bible talks about in Proverbs, for example, does not tickle ears. Kindness is deeds fueled by the love that seeks the best for others, even those that hate you.
“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:20-21
Kindness doesn’t always feel good. What’s more kind and loving than pushing a man out of the way of a car? You may break his ribs but his life is spared. He may not feel good, but he’s alive. Who would object to saving a life?
At the time of writing this, we are a few weeks removed from celebrating Reformation Day. On this day we celebrate God’s work through imperfect reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale, John Knox. We also appreciate the men who came later, such as Charles Spurgeon, who boldly preached the Truth in times so depleted of sound doctrine.
God used them to bring people to their knees and repent. Countless people. The impact was so immense, the world was radically affected. It was apparent souls were desperately needing Truth.
The Reformers boldly stood for the Word of God and even gave their life for it. Although imperfect, they loved the Lord, His people, and the Scripture. It showed. They faithfully preached on the kindness of God and they showed kindness themselves, yet… they were not necessarily the nicest of speakers or known for their appeasing speech. They didn’t care to make people feel nice. That doesn’t save souls.
A few of their quotes:
“If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives a plough to know more of the scriptures than you do.” ― William Tyndale (speaking to a priest)
“Your thoughts of God are too human.” – Martin Luther (speaking to Erasmus)
“The world doesn’t want to be punished. It wants to remain in darkness. It doesn’t want to be told that what it believes is false. If you also don’t want to be corrected, then you might as well leave the church and spend your time at the bar and brothel. But if you want to be saved-and remember that there’s another life after this one-you must accept correction.” Martin Luther
“The pastor ought to have two voices: one, for gathering the sheep; and another, for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both.” John Calvin
“A man that extols himself is a fool and an idiot” John Calvin
“To search for wisdom apart from Christ means not simply foolhardiness but utter insanity.” John Calvin
“Right is right though all condemn, and wrong is wrong though all approve.” Charles Spurgeon
“You and I cannot be useful if we want to be sweet as honey in the mouths of men. God will never bless us if we wish to please men, that they may think well of us. Are you willing to tell them what will break your own heart in the telling and break theirs in the hearing? If not, you are not fit to serve the Lord. You must be willing to go and speak for God, though you will be rejected.” Charles Spurgeon
They had lived up close and personal to the cesspool of deceit. It carried the stench of death. People they knew and loved were perishing in false doctrine and being abused by false teachers. A massive amount of people were slumbering in their sins and dancing straight to Hell. Nice and easy wasn’t going to cut it.
Of course, the Reformers were in no way the originators of such an approach.
The Old Testament writers, the Apostles such as Paul and Peter and ultimately Christ Himself said some pretty harsh truth.
“Do not withhold discipline from a child;
Though you strike him with the rod, he will not die.
You shall strike him with the rod
And rescue his soul from Sheol.” Proverbs 23:13-14
“One who loves discipline loves knowledge, But one who hates rebuke is stupid.” Proverbs 12:1
“But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you because you thought you could acquire the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore, repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart will be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of unrighteousness.” (Peter to Simon the magician) Acts 8:20-23.
“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” (Paul talking about having to confront Peter) Galatians 2:11
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” Matthew 23:15
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23
In John MacArthur’s book, “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of Christ, in the first chapter titled, When it’s Wrong to be “Nice” he writes, “The Great Shepherd Himself was never far from open controversy with the most conspicuously religious inhabitants in all of Israel. Almost every chapter of the Gospels makes some reference to His running battle with the chief hypocrites of His day, and He made no effort whatsoever to be winsome in His encounters with them. He did not invite them to dialogue or engage in a friendly exchange of ideas….. This approach would surely have earned Jesus a resounding outpouring of loud disapproval from today’s guardians of the evangelical protocol. In fact, His approach to the Pharisees utterly debunks the cardinal points of conventional wisdom among modern and postmodern evangelicals—the neo ….evangelical fondness for eternal collegiality, and the Emerging infatuation with engaging all points of view in endless conversation. By today’s standards, Jesus’ words about the Pharisees and His treatment of them are breathtakingly severe.”
Were Paul, Peter, and even Christ Himself unloving? Unkind? Is the severe approach wrong?
On the contrary!
Although we are not to make a habit of going around and rebuking brothers and sister harshly or publically or calling people hypocrites, we can gather from the Bible’s examples that the truth is profoundly important and we can’t compromise it or dance around it. We also see what true kindness looks like. It’s not as much about sparing feelings, as it is sparing souls the judgment or severe discipline of the Lord. Not only did the men in the Bible rebuke those they were speaking to, but they graciously shared with the many hearers who need to know what’s right and what’s wrong. That is loving-kindness.
“For such people are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” Romans 16:18
Today people are making some very serious decisions based solely on the “niceness” of others. They are attracted by smooth and flattering speech. It is a dangerous thing to look to be led by what’s likable instead of what is right.
After witnessing to a close family member with concern in my heart, tears in my eyes, and loving conviction in my voice, she walked out the door and said she never wanted anything more to do with me or my God. She didn’t see me as nice, that’s for sure. I looked every bit the part of evil in her eyes at that moment. Yet that was far from true. Praise God, He used the truth spoken to break her and bring her to repentance a while later. The truth sets us free (John 8:32)! God’s Word is a sword, not a fan (Hebrews 4:12). The Word is a hammer, not a feather (Jeremiah 23:29). Christ is a stumbling block for some (1 Corinthians 1:23), hated and rejected by many (John 15:18). He is not concerned about being nice. He is concerned about the providing of God’s truth in love.
“Peace if possible, truth at all costs.” Martin Luther
If I had to choose between hard truth and nice veneer, I’d take the truth in John Wayne’s style over nice and sweet nothings any day. Any person who has been devastated by “sweet little lies” should agree. Anyone who sees sin and false teaching ravaging souls, should be more concerned about the Truth and doing good than sparkly words and happy feelings.
Yes, we are to be peaceable, gentle, gracious in our speech and always with a heart of compassion, and to know that doesn’t mean suppressing the truth of God. People may be in grave danger with the Lord! Let them know if you care, even if they don’t see you as nice for doing it. Ultimately, we are to please the Lord, not man.
“For am I now seeking the favor of people, or of God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10