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.
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.
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