LUDICROUSNESS OF FAITH
Humility is one of the main attributes of Christianity, one which gives the believer the ability to swallow their insignificance in this vast universe, while simultaneously drawing courage and purpose from the Spirit who spoke the universe into existence. Humility also changes the way we receive the Word of God: Learning of Jesus from the Bible either draws solid faith into the absence of hope, or its extreme claims become the items of religious caricature. Put differently, when people hear of Jesus, they either take Him seriously, or their shock in light of His story forces their logic to consume the lies of the world to make sense of what appears to be the ludicrousness of faith.
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 explicate the value of Christianity and its influence on the attitude of the believer, as well as why this should not be confused or mistaken with the correlation of faith. While niceness is a positive attribute, it does not add any measure of extraordinary depth to Christianity; rather, Christianity interjects 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. Let me explain.
Receiving good news from a friend often brings momentary periods of joy through the conduit of empathy; however, this sensation lacks the effervescent joy we can find in Christ since earthly joy does not transcend reality. Furthermore, if we are to consider the notion of realities, we would be wise to also consider the way earthly joy inevitably foreshadows something rare and ecstatic: The high hope of a better world without pain or death or tears—Heaven. Sadly, the doubt of disbelief cloaks the mind and obscures this hope under the rigidity of logic.
In this light, we can recognize how each of our ephemeral circumstances, whether or not they stimulate joy—are not transcendent of life’s circumstances, and therefore they do not inspire us to have hope beyond this moment. While happiness is as transient as joy is steadfast, earthly joy is like happiness in that it does not gain momentum from any eternality; only faith in Jesus commands the interior walls of belief to leap into the ‘beyond’ from limitation, revealing a more splendent joy as connected to our spirit.
THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Our spirit, once faith has been embraced through grace, no longer witnesses the self without first gazing through the love and provision of Christ. While we still desire pleasure and comfort, this short-sighted viewpoint is overseen by the wisdom of trusting in Jesus. Being encompassed by faith reinstates through the spirit our deeper and more intrinsic desire for a purposeful eternity: Hope in Christ not only answers our search and desire for this, it also heals the broken pieces of who we are from the wake of the destruction of our sin through the power of the Holy Spirit.
THE “SMILE” OF NICENESS THROUGH FAITH
In this way, the joy of a Christian stems from their faith, not through an act they’ve carried out or a mood they’re in. Because of this, the expression of joyfulness, which is sometimes mistaken as its own entity—is more or less described as “nice,” in the sense that joy is commonly expressed through a smile and cheeriness. I love to smile at people because I know a genuine smile communicates an effective and positive message, but it isn’t to say, “I’m smiling because I’m Christian!” This reasoning would be so spiritually forced as to be histrionic. If belief in Jesus means, “We smile because we’re Christian,” then faith is simply an act of the will while hope is a mood enhancer. But this isn’t true. Faith in Jesus is rooted in the soul, where desire for meaning and purpose can only be satisfied and fulfilled by the living essence of the transcendent (namely, the Holy Spirit). Why is that? Because we were created by a God who lives outside of the ephemeralness of time and space and sin, and it is to His home to which we are invited.
NOT AN ACT OF THE WILL
Why is it important for people to understand why niceness needn’t be directly attributed to faith in Christ? The reason is this: If we say we’re smiling because we’re Christian, then we give glory to religion rather than the Lord. In other words, we’re saying, “I’m joyful because I am a Christian,” rather than, “I am joyful because I live in the hope of Jesus Christ.” When we give credit to the belief, we redirect the mind to the act of the will (performance-based religion) rather than the gift from God (grace, and an intimate, personal relationship). In doing this, we give the impression that in order to be Christian, one must smile and “act” nice. This is precisely the fallacy which must be eradicated from the spiritual conversation and effaced from our hearts if we are to understand—and be transformed by—the authenticity of the spirit of Christianity.
EFFECTING THE SPIRIT
To be clear, niceness is not the thought pattern by which a believer operates; rather, faith is the conduit through which we breathe, desire, and move. If it is not through faith, then it is through selfishness/narcissism. Faith is not chosen, it is received through God’s gift of grace. The attitude and character of the reborn spirit are not circumstantial or ephemeral, but influenced by an eternality far beyond that of any association with the body or mind. Simply put, the Holy Spirit does not require our body to work properly in order for its power to be efficient; the Holy Spirit works through the spirit, not the flesh.
Transcendent joy is our new mentality and perspective, our very lifestyle, in fact—not merely a circumstantial event caused by external factors. From this, what we can take away is that niceness is only a single, minute facet of the natural response of our spirit to transcendent joy, not nearly an act of false banality derived of faith in Jesus.
AN AUTHENTIC SMILE OF HOPE
When others see me smile, they tell me that it is genuine and authentic, and that is true. I do not smile because I’m Christian—I smile because I have hope for a life beyond this world. 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 excuse of niceness. There is a Truth and a promise that we’re called to receive, and in receiving it, the consequent joy is invigorating to the extent that a smile (niceness) is merely a small courtesy of expression; an external indication, more or less, of such a gift received in the soul deep inside.
While I have emphasized at length the significance of a smile, this is obviously not the only expression of joy (and happiness/niceness), but one of many. My intent here was to use the smile as an example which others commonly recognize. Furthermore, I have witnessed churchgoers whose smile/attitude disintegrates as soon as their face turns a few degrees from mine, which comes across as incredibly forced. This is not authenticity as its best, for it is the absence of grace at work. Niceness is not only unnecessary with regards to those who believe niceness is solely an attitude associated with Christianity; many times it also has the power to propitiate the fallacy that faith in Christ enforces a fake persona in order to pursue. Quite oppositely, receiving Jesus begins at a much deeper level of the spirit, where niceness is merely a constituent of a much larger whole: JOY. 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 to be more generous with our time; the openness even to being silent with those who are suffering and merely seeking the presence of someone who cares. These are expressions which we, as Christ-followers, have joyful reason to believe beyond the fallacy of coerced spiritual niceness, are the moments which matter most.
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