Why You Shouldn’t Be Nice

“Why are you America’s fine, light beer?”

I was probably seven years old at the time and our family was taking a tour through the Coors brewery in Golden, Colorado. At that time, Coors was marketing itself as “America’s fine light beer”–back in the day when “light” didn’t mean “low-cal.”

Innocently, I asked our tour guide a question that he couldn’t answer. After stumbling through a weak response, we continued our tour, but my dad still likes to tell the story.

But how many of us were trained at an early age to keep our thoughts to ourselves? We shouldn’t say what we’re thinking because it isn’t “nice”?

To be nice we must keep our opinions to ourselves, tell people what they want to hear, and always, always paste a fake smile on our faces.

Niceness is the enemy of authentic Christianity.

Please join us in our daily Bible conversation as we discuss why you shouldn’t be nice.

TODAY’S READING

Hosea 4:1-5:15
2 John 1:1-13
Psalm 125:1-5
Proverbs 29:9-11

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Hosea 4:1-5:15. After giving Israel a vivid portrait of his love for them through Hosea’s example of faithfulness to his unfaithful wife Gomer, God cuts to the chase. Instead of faithfulness, love, and steadfast commitment to him, the people curse each other, lie, murder, steal, and commit adultery. Even the priests indulge in the same sins. God tells them that a “spirit of prostitution” leads them astray (also mentioned in 5:4). More than a sexual act, a spirit of prostitution is the desire to live by our senses, pursuing anything that feels good, forfeiting the future for the present, even if it means sacrificing our relationship with God.

2 John 1:1-13. John the apostle’s second epistle was likely written at the same time as his first. Before the advent of radio and television, Bible teachers traveled from church to church to strengthen local congregations (and make a little money). As Gnosticism began infiltrating some churches, John issued this epistle as a warning to avoid supporting their teachers.

Incidentally, scholars believe “the chosen lady and her children” to whom John writes may have been a reference to a specific church.

Right now, our society frowns upon any claims of truth because it is perceived as arrogance. Yet John writes that he finds joy in seeing people “walking in the truth.” In fact, the Father commands this (verse 4).

Proverbs 29:9-11. “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Proverbs 29:11). We may describe ourselves as “emotional,” “passionate,” or “fiery” (I have!), but really, it’s nothing more than anger. One of the overarching themes of Scripture is that anger doesn’t reflect a godly life. This proverb makes the point that when we get angry we lose control, which leads us to say and do things that we later regret (if we’re humble enough to admit it). A few weeks ago we read in James 1:20 that “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Likewise, Jesus said that if we’re angry with our brother, we’re subject to judgment (Matthew 5:21-22).

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

What draws me to the apostle John’s writings are his warm prose and deep insights. His Gospel differs significantly from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, probably because he spent a great deal of time reflecting on Jesus’ life before recording anything. By contrast, the other three Gospels began as oral traditions that floated around until their respective writers organized them into their particular Gospel.

For good reason, John could be described as the “apostle of love.” The word “love” appears in his writings 110 times—including 5 times in the mere 13 verses that we call 2 John. In verse 5 he writes, “I ask that we love one another.”

If John was the apostle of love, then I would probably describe myself as the apostle of nice. I hate it.

All too often, Christians equate love with being nice. We should smile, nod our heads, and keep our thoughts to ourselves. Society raises that standard high, calling it tolerance.

But after calling his readers to love, the apostle of love begins to give it a little more definition:

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
2 John 6

A life of love means obeying God. If we love God, then we’ll obey him. Loving people is an act of obedience to God. We love God by loving people.

Then after John’s exhortation to love, he tells his readers to have nothing to do with the Gnostic teachers. They shouldn’t even welcome them into their homes (verse 10). That wouldn’t be considered very nice. It certainly isn’t tolerant.

But see, love isn’t nice.

While John refers to “love” 5 times in this short epistle, he also refers to “truth” 5 times. In fact, he uses variations of the word “truth” 45 times in his writings. Notice that John tells his readers to “walk in truth” (verse 4) as well as “walk in love” (verse 6)

You see, love without truth is nothing more than being nice. Love isn’t capitulation nor is it nodding your head and smiling. Love means being authentic and walking in truth. In 1 John 3:18, he wrote, “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

In the same way, Paul tells us, “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

So love has boundaries. It doesn’t mean we allow anyone to do anything they want. It doesn’t mean we allow false teachers to say their thing while we keep silent. John likely wrote his second epistle because certain believers were being nice and allowing false teachers to take advantage of them. They assumed that being loving meant giving in.

Think about it: would you consider God nice? Not on your life. In our reading in Hosea 3, God enters into an argument with Israel because they aren’t walking in the truth. They had given in to the practices of the surrounding culture.

Love may not be nice, but it is kind. It chooses to be loving without beating someone up with truth.

Love is kind, but it’s never nice (1 Corinthians 13:4; Galatians 5:22).

Don’t be nice. Be kind. Walk in love and truth.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. According to 2 John, what is the relationship between truth and love? How are they different and how are they the same?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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