Jesus Was Not Nice — and You Shouldn’t be, Either
The Lamb of God was also known as the Lion of Judah for a reason
Who do you think of when you think of the word “nice”?
Gandhi? Mother Theresa?
How about Jesus?
Most artists’ renditions portray Jesus as the sweetest, nicest-looking man, usually accompanied by lambs or children.
They’re not entirely wrong — Jesus is known as “the lamb of God,” and he did love to bless children.
But that does not mean Jesus was nice.
Jesus was more than “nice”
Christians love to proclaim: “God is love!”
They’re right. God IS love.
And in 1 Corinthians 13, love is described as patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not rude, selfless, not easily angered, and ungrudging.
“Nice” never shows up on that list.
But “Kind” does.
The difference between niceness and kindness is like the difference between tolerating and embracing, political correctness and love, appearance and reality.
Unlike niceness, which is focused on outward consequences (a desire to not ruffle feathers or to minimize conflict); kindness comes from inside (love for others and desire for their well-being).
Nice people donate money to a beggar. Kind people invite the beggar home for lunch.
Nice people ask you how you are. Kind people actually want to know.
Nice people do occasional “good deeds.” Kind people consistently love others.
Jesus was not nice — he was kind.
He touched the untouchables.
He told the disciples to “let the little children come to me.”
He ate meals with the rejects of society.
He declared “I have not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world.” Especially to people who were sick, discouraged, beaten down, humbled.
If you were sick, discouraged, and beaten down, would you want someone to give you a pat on the back and a “good luck!” — or would you want someone to hold you, love you, and encourage you until you get back on your feet again?
If we’re really honest with ourselves, we don’t really want people to be nice to us, either. “Nice” is just what we settle for when what we really want is for people to be kind.
Jesus didn’t care about niceness — he cared about righteousness
Nice people don’t make enemies. But Jesus did. Lots of them. Because he cared about righteousness more than making and keeping friends.
For one thing,
Jesus had no patience for unrepentant, greedy men who took advantage of others.
When he saw moneychangers and merchants selling animals in the temple courtyard (probably at exorbitant, unreasonable prices), he “made a whip, drove them from the temple area, and overturned their tables” (John 2).
This was not a fit of uncontrolled temper, however. Jesus didn’t run through the courtyard screaming and flipping cages (which would have injured the animals inside).
Instead, Jesus was totally in control: he took the time to make a cord with which to herd the larger animals out of the courtyard. He overturned money-changing tables and ordered the people to take their birdcages out (so the birds would not be injured), and barred them from coming back in to exploit the temple visitors.
He didn’t care that he was inconveniencing and offending people or messing up their business. They were the ones who were wrong, for desecrating a holy space by daring to use their unsavory business practices on humble travelers who only wanted to worship God. And he wasn’t afraid to call them out and stop them.
Jesus also had no patience for religious hypocrites.
He criticized the Jewish religious leaders for holding on to empty traditions while ignoring their fellow human beings’ very real needs.
He demonstrated through his example how true religious leaders ought to behave, how they ought to care for those under their authority.
Some of the things — actually, a lot of the things — he said to these oppressors could not be described as “nice” in any way.
But Jesus didn’t care about being nice. He cared about righteousness, about waking the religious leaders up to their cruelty and hypocrisy, and giving them a chance to repent and do better.
At times, people can be won over with gentle words. At times, they need a smack on the head to see sense.
Jesus did both.
When Jesus was “mean”
During his three and a half years of ministry, Jesus touched and healed social outcasts. He defended women who were being criticized by arrogant men. He raised the dead.
But he also pissed a lot of people off. So much so that they eventually killed him.
We tend to forget that when we are surrounded by so many sweet Jesus pictures.
From a young age, most children are taught to “be nice.” Which includes everything from being polite (say “thank you,” don’t ask awkward questions, don’t talk about religion or politics during dinner parties) to saving face (your own and others’).
We forget it is possible to act “nice” outwardly while secretly hating or deriding a person in your heart.
We do it all the time, either because we want to look good in spectators’ eyes, or because we want to avoid conflict.
But Jesus was not afraid of what people thought, nor was he afraid of conflict.
He had no qualms breaking the status quo, pointing out people who were doing or saying wrong things, and confronting arrogant religious leaders who were hurting the people they were supposed to help.
He also didn’t care about being politically correct.
Many times, after healing someone sick, Jesus would say “go and sin no more, or else something worse might happen to you.”
He knew that sickness and infirmity are often a result of a person’s sinful choices and lifestyle. He had compassion for such people, but he didn’t hesitate to warn them against returning to their previous harmful ways.
No one likes to hear that they are wrong. Not now, not back then. But Jesus was willing to tell people when they were wrong because he loved them more than he cared what they thought of him.
What Jesus stood for
Jesus stood for the kingdom of heaven, for truth, for repentance and salvation, forgiveness and hope. He came to tell the truth, to heal the sick and wounded, to save lives.
If he had to step on a few toes to do it, he was willing to do so, even at the expense of being perceived as “not nice.”
Remember, this is the guy who called the Pharisees (the Jewish elite): “Whitewashed tombs! Snakes! A brood of vipers!” (Matthew 23).
I don’t know about you, but those do not sound like “nice” words to me. They sound like fighting words.
No wonder the Pharisees wanted him dead.
Why you shouldn’t be nice
If Jesus had been “nice,” no one would have crucified Him.
But He also wouldn’t have had any power to save humanity or change the world and the course of history.
Those who followed him also had the same problem. Almost all of Jesus’ disciples were killed gruesomely for sticking to their principles against the flow of culture.
Today, this is still the case.
People who stand up for truth, hold on to their principles, and confront wrongdoers must be prepared to face a backlash.
If you stick to righteousness at the expense of “niceness,” be prepared to be insulted, mocked, demeaned, injured, threatened, maybe even killed.
So why not just stay “nice” and keep your head down, avoid all that messy stuff?
It’s been said:
the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything
In a post-modern world where political correctness is king, and everyone’s “truth” is equally valid no matter how contradictory, we have fewer and fewer people courageous enough to stand up and fight for what is right and just and true.
If this continues, we will fall — not just individuals, but entire groups, our entire society.
Being nice comes with a price. One we cannot afford.
It is impossible to be nice, all the time, to everyone, no matter what. We shouldn’t even try.
Let us not be nice. Let us be kind. Let us stand up for righteousness. Let us be like Jesus.
Call to Action
If we really want to be like Jesus, we can’t settle for “nice.”
Don’t just be “nice” to people — be kind, by lending a helping hand or calling them out when necessary.
Be brave, by standing up for righteousness and not allowing your desire for approval or aversion to conflict keep you from speaking up and doing what needs to be done.
Never sacrifice your principles in order to act, or appear, nice.
You may — in fact, you will — attract opposition if you do this. Jesus did, after all: He was killed for not being nice.
But that’s how he was able to save us.
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