Under the Microscope: The Fallacy Of Christian Niceness

LUDICROUS FAITH

Humility is one of the attributes in Christianity which helps restructure the manner in which we receive the Word of God. Learning of Jesus either percolates solid faith into the absence of hope, or its extreme claims become the items of religious caricature. People either receive Jesus authentically, or their shock in light of His story forces them to view Christianity as ludicrous.

 CHRISTIANITY AND NICENESS

One word in the English language which seems overused in describing the Christian character, is “nice.” In this article, I would like to explore the influence of Christianity on the attitude of the believer. While niceness is a positive attribute, it does not add any measure of depth to Christianity; rather, Christianity permeates authenticity into the character of niceness—insofar that our attitude isn’t a mirror of self-merit, but a reflection of the light of faith within.

THE “SMILE” OF NICENESS THROUGH FAITH

The joy of a Christian stems from faith. I love to smile at people because I know a genuine smile communicates an effective and positive message. But, my smile isn’t to say, “I’m smiling because I’m Christian!” If belief in Jesus means, “We smile because we’re Christian,” then joy wouldn’t be an authentic result of faith. Faith in Jesus is rooted in the soul, where desire for meaning and purpose can only be fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. Why is that? We were created by a God who lives outside of the ephemeralness of time and space and sin, and our souls are longing for Him.

NOT AN ACT OF THE WILL 

Why is it important for people to understand why niceness needn’t be directly attributed to faith? If we say we’re smiling because we’re Christian, then we give glory to religion rather than the Lord. In other words, we’d be saying, “I’m joyful because I am Christian,” rather than, “I am joyful because of the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

When we give merit to belief, we focus on the act of the will (performance-based religion) rather than God’s gift of grace. In doing this, we give the impression that in order to be Christian, one must smile and “act” nice. This is a fallacy which must be eradicated by clarity and truth if we are to understand—and be transformed by—the Good News of Christ.

AN AUTHENTIC SMILE OF HOPE

When others see me smile, they comment on its genuineness. That’s because I do not smile because I’m Christian—I smile because I have hope in Heaven through Jesus. Another hope of mine is that others will find my smile contagious, and grow curious. I’m always open to strangers asking me if I’m Christian (which has happened several times), because I’m always hoping they’ll see that there’s more behind this smile than the verisimilitude of the facade of niceness. The consequent joy of receiving the Good News of Christ is invigorating to the extent that a smile is merely a small courtesy of expression, an external indication that such a gift has been received deep in the soul.

JOYFUL INTENTION

While I have emphasized at length the significance of a smile, this is obviously not the only expression of joy, but one of many. My intent here was to use the smile as an example others commonly recognize. Christians do not have to smile, but we do because we find hope and joy in Jesus.

In the late, respected words of St. Francis of Assisi: 

Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

My point and message is not that we become silent Christ-followers, but to point out how our actions speak loudly—especially to unbelievers, when our actions contradict the words of our mouthes. Christian joy builds the desire and motive to be more generous with our time, and the openness to be silent with those who are suffering, seeking the presence of someone who cares. These are expressions which we, as Christ-followers, have joyful reason to believe are the moments which matter most. 

CONNECT WITH ME

If you resonated with this article and would like to read more, please follow this blog, and please share this with anyone. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog, Twitter at LancePriceBlog, Instagram at lancepriceblog, Pinterest at LancePriceBlog, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog. Feel free to leave any thoughts or feelings regarding this article in the comments below, or write me privately using my Contact page. May God bless you, readers!

Impression

14 thoughts on “Under the Microscope: The Fallacy Of Christian Niceness

  1. Lance, I really appreciate how you broke this down and explained it. It’s so important that we know “niceness” isn’t because we’re Christian and we’re “supposed to be nice,” but because of the JOY set before us and living in us through the Holy Spirit. We joy in the good news given to us and that we now live in. To make our joy any more or less is to distort it- and that has consequences. Thank you for making these points!

    On a side note, I know it’s semantics and I’ve likely said something similar in my writing, but I’ve recently been challenged through reading Scripture and the book Word-Centered Church by Jonathon Leeman that we actually DO need to preach the Gospel using words- God Himself uses words in His Word to do so and in Christ the Word became flesh. (Lots of importance in words!) Our joy, smile, attitude, giving of time, etc., are important platforms for sharing and/or evidences of Jesus Christ in our lives, but do not and cannot “preach” in the same way God’s Word does. Anyway, something I’ve been thinking about. Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bethany, I really appreciate your comment here. You’re absolutely right and I completely agree that words are very powerful in preaching the Gospel. Perhaps my choice of words in this article didn’t come out as I intended them. I do not mean to deter from how powerful word-of-mouth preaching is indeed effective, as–like you said–Jesus Himself used words, and so must we. My point was merely that at times, testimony of Jesus can be effective in a Christian’s quiet but unsustainable joy; such as the desire to serve or to accompany someone in need. But that is not me trying to claim Christians should veer away from preaching with words. I would not advise that whatsoever. I apologize if my message came across as anything outside of that, and thank you so much for pointing that out! A very powerful and important point to be perfectly clear about. 🙂 God bless you!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Happy to discuss Lance! I didn’t think you meant it that way – like I said, it’s probably just semantics! Just something I’ve been convicted about being careful how I say myself too since there is confusion on the matter among many people. Thanks for this post and discussion! God bless you as well!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi, Lance! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on niceness vs. uniquely Christian joy. I think you made some great points. I’ve often noticed that the older I get the less “nice” I become, and sometimes that concerns or surprises me! But my hope, of course, is that something deeper or more genuine will take the place of my former version of being “nice.” Being nice isn’t bad under many circumstances…but it certainly isn’t enough, you know?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Anna! Thank you for your comment, I appreciate your words. What you said about “-something deeper or more genuine will take place of my former version of being ‘nice,'” hits my point on the head; I believe niceness is only an expression of our joy in Christ. I really do agree with you that niceness isn’t enough, absolutely. And, like you said, I hoped others would understand that I’m not calling out niceness as “bad,” but merely stating that Christian niceness is but a smaller facet of a larger whole, and that trying to put the two together misses the point of the Christian attitude. By missing the point, my concern was that what is taken away by unbelievers is that Christians are only nice because they are “supposed” to be–as if Christianity is job rather than a blessing, and wearing a smile is like putting on a tux. I don’t agree with that at all, which is the reason I wrote this article. Thank you for reading! I’m glad you took something positive from this. 🙂 God bless you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep, exactly, Lance! I think we are tracking. 🙂 I agree; if all nonbelievers notice that’s different about Christians is that we are “nice,” that’s no particularly unique and also gives the impression that we may not have much of backbone when it comes to the things that are so wrong in this world (aka social justice issues, abuse, etc.). And like you said, if we just go around smiling, people could easily mistake Christianity as another version of self-help, self-centered spirituality. In other words, you become a Christian to be happy and to make you nice. Well? Yeah, that’s not really what our faith is about, in the end. Jesus would roll over in his grave…er, yeah that analogy doesn’t work at all. 😉

        On my blog, Thawing Out (www.thawingout.org), I also like to challenge common assumptions about Christian spirituality. Feel free to check me out or comment! You might like: http://www.thawingout.org/index.php/2017/03/09/dear-pastor-beware-of-criticizing-survivors/

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Absolutely! 100% agree with everything you’re saying here. 🙂 Thankfully for our sake, Jesus did a heck of a lot more than merely “roll” 😉 (by defeating evil, taking the keys of death away from Hell…).

        I have a high admiration for your blog already just from checking out your link. I look forward to digging deep into your articles and getting to know you as well as where you come from. Thank you for sharing that with me!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. There are many people who are nice with no connection to God at all – in fact it can be the main tripping point for feeling a need for God. I want to be nice, but I want God’s light to be the power behind my behavior and my submission to Him daily is what makes that work. I want to obey God not because I’m nice but because like Paul, I’m compelled. Which I’m not always – nice or compelled!

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I agree with you–many people ARE nice without a connection with God. In turn, I believe this affects the nature of their “niceness.” Like you, I want God’s power to be behind my niceness and ultimately transform the niceness of my attitude into something radical and contagious towards others’ spirits. This is what I think joy is–something internal which emanates externally as nice but which originates much deeper than attitude. Like feeling compelled by an inspiration deep inside, as you referenced. 🙂 God bless you and thank you for reading! I hope you took something new or positive away from reading this.

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