Under the Microscope: The Fallacy Of Christian Niceness

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.

TRANSCENDENT JOY

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.

JOYFUL INTENTION

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. 

LET’S CONNECT

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 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or any questions you may have in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you. God bless you, readers!

Impression

Author: Lance Price Blog 2017

Something I’ve loved to do since I was in High School is write. What starting off as as merely poetry transitioned into a more serious passion. Now, as a blogger, I want my writing to help people understand themselves, others, and Jesus in fresh ways that maybe they hadn’t understood before. My sincerest hope is that my writing will be an inspiration, and a means of encouragement for those who are going through a hard time—whether it be related to trauma, spiritual crisis, or an issue regarding family/divorce and relationships. I also mean for my articles to act as a boost of confidence for those who are already riding the waves of optimism, joy, and hope. You'll also notice my new "Movie Reviews" page, which will be made up of my movie critiques. Though these are not the same as my blog posts in the sense that they are not Jesus-based but movie-based, I will still review films from an open-minded Christian standpoint. Above all else, as a Christ follower, I hope my faith will permeate the words of my articles and encourage others to follow the Lord of salvation, love, grace, mercy, empowerment, forgiveness, and eternal life. I hope the very best comes from reading what I write and that these goals are met through the hearts of readers being challenged and changed for the best. Thank you for reading!

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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