Was Jesus Nice?

by Steve Ray on February 20, 2017

I’m OK, you’re OK. Be yourself! Gotcha covered buddy!

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me. “That was not very Christ-like.” This response usually comes after being honest to the point of making someone upset.  The implication is that Jesus was a cuddly little nice guy who was always smiling, always accepting with kind words – in short NICE.

In America we tend to be pretty nice, except maybe if you live in New York City. But in contrast to the rest of the world we tend to be very polite, genteel, gracious and nice. Tour guides in other countries say that Americans are the nicest people. We transpose our niceness onto Jesus and think he was a lot like us.

But does LOVE = NICE?

Of course Jesus was loving. He is God after all and God is love (1 John 4:8). We also know that love does not always equate to NICE. God allowed Paul to have a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble (2 Cor 12:7). Three times Paul prayed for it to be removed. God said NO.  God was not acting very American. He certainly wasn’t very nice about it.

Nice is defined primarily as “pleasant or commendable, kind or friendly” (Collins English Dictionary). It originally comes from the Latin meaning “simple, silly or ignorant.”

“He’s not a tame lion, afterall” Quote from Narnia series

There is such a thing as “tough love.” It is the kind of love that cares enough to be honest, to confront, to discipline, to cause temporary pain to bring about eternal glory.  On the surface “tough love” does not always appear to be nice. How often has a child, sent to the corner blurt out “You are not very nice!”

Was Jesus nice?

Like Aslan the Lion in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series, Jesus is approachable and loving, but don’t ever consider him “tame” or too cuddly. Jesus is God as well as man. He expressed the wrath and anger of God as well as the mercy and love of God.

Imagine coming to the Temple in Jerusalem one day to pray. You hear a great commotion and run over to see an angry man throwing over tables, grabbing the money from the merchants and throwing the money on the ground.

Whipping the money changers and dumping over their tables

But worse, you see him make a scourge of cords – a whip – and striking people with it. You are shocked that anyone would be so rude and destructive, so inconsiderate and mean to lash people with a whip. People ran in fear! Everyone was upset. Jesus was red in the face and scowling.  It certainly wasn’t very “Christ-like.” How nice was that?

Jesus was always loving, but he was not always nice, as we Americans count niceness. Here is just one example. Jesus spoke very harshly to his fellow Jews.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. . . .  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matthew 23:27,  28, 33).

Ouch! Doesn’t sound very kind and courteous: not very thoughtful or nice!

So, maybe there is more to WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) than we’ve been led to believe. Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about being nice, being liked, acting like  genteel Americans. Maybe we ought to be more honest and forthright about the things that really matter.  Maybe we should be more willing to hurt some feelings, step on some toes, show tough love to those in sin.

Maybe we should be more Christ-like.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra Lipari May 5, 2013 at 1:11 PM

The “nice” construct has led us to the newest and strongest vein of relativism we are battling today. Nice = tolerate everything even unto death! Now that’s not nice! To live outside of God’s Word is to chose death according to a few very strong proponents, like say, Moses?

Thank you Steve. Long road, many battles uphill but onward Christian soldiers!

Toni Landon May 6, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Hello Doug and Becky Ball! Have been following the blogs and videos. You must be having an amazing time! Very moving, I’m sure! All is well here, finally going to have warm days this week. Miss you! Love you man!
Love, The Girls!

Sue May 6, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Reminds me of when we got a new priest many years ago. Talk about fire and brimstone! He was an older priest and every homily every Sunday was about “Turn off the T and the V!! It’s a hotline for the devil right into your homes!” And, to everyone’s dismay, there was no change for the Christmas Eve homily. I began to wonder how long I would be able to keep my teenage sons going to Mass for what seemed like a weekly beating. He wasn’t giving us “nice” homilies that we would rather hear. People started driving to other parishes for Mass and the collections went way down. I finally asked God to help me see this priest as He sees him and instantly I saw a holy man that loved us so much he was willing to have people hate him just to help those who would listen take back our souls, to really pay attention to what we were watching as a family on tv. God really opened my eyes. And what we had been watching, as a family, was not as funny and harmless as I had thought it was. This man showed me by his actions that to really love someone is to care about their soul. This holy priest became a dear friend and a powerful, faith-saving influence for me and I will be forever grateful to Father Thaddeus Bryl, may he rest in peace.

Jim and Mary Lou Fofarty May 6, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Praise The Lord! You guys are having too much fun what with dancing and all! You are visiting many of the same places we saw last January..wish we were with you now. Keep an eye on that wild couple in your group..Ephraim and Regina Yitbarek..just kidding…miss and love them and send all of you God’s blessings as you travel in His Holy Land. PS Keep the faith! And stay full of His joy.
In Christ,
Jim and Mary Lou Fogarty

Susan Melkus August 30, 2017 at 2:51 PM

Thank you so much, Steve Ray! Bravo on this EXCELLENT blog post! This is one of the most consoling things I’ve read in a long time. I am not comfortable with the word “nice.” In fact, I have come to hate it, because of the horrible definition it has taken in the last few decades. Bravo! Truth sets us free! Truth spoken in love sets us free, not being “nice.” Jesus never said, “Blessed are the nice.” He said “Blessed are the meek, the kind, the merciful.” There is a huge difference between being ‘nice’ and being loving. Thank you for expounding on this with such honesty and conviction. You’ve nailed it, sir!

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