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

How God Uses the Damaged To Change the World

Almost 9 years ago, I let Jesus into my life in a way that I had denied Him for the previous 21. Letting Him into my life was one step; desperately calling Him into my heart was another. 

HINDSIGHT AND ITS TREASURES

Nine years of asking questions, of challenging the skepticism/doubt of my atheistic years, and coming to understand the difference between knowing about God and knowing God personally has brought me a long ways from where I first began when I moved away from Michigan in search for who I was. Without God, I was without an identity; I had defined myself with the rage in my heart for all the aching of my adolescence: The heartbreaks, my parents’ divorce; the confusion, the pain, and the idea of a loving God amidst the struggle to even consider living another day—these themes smeared my identity like tattoos. I wasn’t bound to religion, I was bound to what the secular mentality taught me was the way life must be lived when faith in something higher than me didn’t make sense. 

THE REMNANTS OF A DEAD WORLD AFTER CONVERSION

My heart has been aching again lately. Christianity is not a cure-all pill that makes the world perfect when you accept Jesus. Depression is still depression, moods still vacillate; pain still hurts, loss still burdens—and therefore, most importantly—hope is still imperative. Faith in Jesus doesn’t erase divorce, struggle, cancer, breakups, or poverty from existence, but it does give us hope that these forms of worldly suffering are not the conclusion to our story. When I think of my relationship with Jesus today, what hits me as I seek Him more often is how seeking Him has needed to become a lifestyle rather than a bullet-point reference on a “To-Do” list. Seeking Jesus is either who I am, or it’s who I’m avoiding to be. 

THE SUNNY-FACED CHRISTIAN FALLACY

One of the distortions I came about believing over the course of affirming myself as an atheist and later converting to Christianity was the fallacy that people need to see Christians smiley and sunny-faced. To me, not smiling and lacking the sunny face meant Jesus mustn’t be as good as people said He was—but that’s just not true. What I had to learn over time is that feelings are feelings no matter what our beliefs are. A Christian can still feel depressed just like an unbeliever can. An unbeliever can feel happiness and express joy the way a Christian can; the main difference is that the joy of a Christian is not based on circumstance, but rather on the joy of the Good News that Jesus Christ has saved us, and that in Him, we have a reason to be selfless and to look forward to the future, making the present moment that much more significantly meaningful and purposeful. That has nothing to do with emotion or feeling, but with the faith in our heart. They are separate concepts, and combining the two as one is a mistake that perhaps many believers out there do not yet understand. To understand that difference, and to explain it in more delicate detail, is the purpose of this article.

THE FEELINGS-BASED FAITH MYTH

There is no such thing as “feeling like a Christian.” Christianity isn’t an emotion like being happy or angry is. Faith in Christ is exactly that: A walk of faith. What is “the walk” part? The journey of trusting in God above intuition, ratiocination, or our knowledge base, and the way our trust in Him transforms the way we live into a matured, dependent lifestyle based on asking God first before every significant move; whether we “go here or there,” or “say this or that.” The source of a person’s trust is a huge difference between a secularist and a Christian. A believer in Christ will pray to a personal God that he or she fully believes is listening, where a secularist might either pray to “the universe” (which is actually tantamount to Pantheism), which may embody (to the perspective of the secularist) the appearance of chance, luck, fortune, or something like that of fate (the belief in the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power, but not “God”)—or—they may not pray at all. Feeling like a believer is a redundant, weightless phrase; there is no such thing. There no amount of feeling to define someone’s walk of faith. The measurement (if you want to call it that) occurs in the heart: How much do we trust in God to be our only answer to every question?

FAITH DOES NOT EQUAL HAPPINESS

Some unbelievers have the idea that believers consider themselves happier because of their faith. This is not true. Some Christians also have the idea that all atheists and unbelievers are unhappy, and this is also untrue. Faith, or a lack thereof, does not so much affect a person’s emotional status, but rather—faith impacts the mentality of the person, which is another way of saying that it gives them the hope and joy of a life beyond this world that comes in believing that Jesus’s death and resurrection is reason to believe there is a Heaven, and that being transformed in Christ takes us to where He is when we die physically on Earth. While on Earth, however, the transformation does not bring about happiness in the way some people believe. The fallacy that believing in God fixes our Earthly problems may be a distortion of the idea that faith in a loving God automatically brings us a sense of hope in our daily adversities. And while God does bring us hope (hope in Christ), our belief in Him and His son does not change that we still experience struggle on Earth.

Jesus even warned us of this:

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

TWO DIFFERENCES THAT DEFINE HOW WE LIVE

We are not to be fooled into believing everything will be idyllic once we believe. The difference between belief and disbelief is not merely emotional—the difference is noticed existentially in how we live our lives based on who we trust (God, or the world), and from where we derive our sense of hope (transient situational pleasures, or the hope of a transcendent, permanently blissful, perfect life without pain or death by believing in Christ as Lord). These two differences change the way we live our lives, noticeably enough to impact the people who witness us living out these choices in our actions. And make no mistake, people seeing us live this way does not influence mere happiness, since what is being emanated by Christian rebirth is not happiness. What do I mean? Let me explain.

SHORT-LIVED HAPPINESS AND ALL-ENCOMPASSING JOY

You may be asking, “What do you mean, you’re not happier?! You believe in Jesus!” I am no happier as a Christian now than I was an atheist almost 9 years ago. Why? My soul has been renewed in Christ in that my reason for everything (for example, why I think the way I do, or the reason for my actions and decisions) is now based on my faith in Christ, but the way I feel is still influenced by my current experiences. For example, I am joyful in Christ even when I have a horrible day and want to scream. My joy is locked in the Truth I believe in that states one day I will no longer experience the hardships and pain that I do now. I am happy when I eat chocolate, or when I am given a genuine, sincere hug from someone who truly cares about me. I am happy when I get to go to the movie theater, or when I’m reading a great book.

These moments never last, however, and that is the difference between joy and happiness: Joy is my all-encompassing reality, like the bird’s-eye view of my own heart, whereas happiness is the situational, hormonal reaction to what occurs in my day-today, hour-to-hour experiences. I can’t stay in the movie theater forever because I’d never see anyone, do anything, or be able to pay my bills; I can’t eat chocolate all day and night because eventually I’d get sick; I can’t read a great book forever because when I finish, I won’t need to reread it immediately 100 times over—I’ll want to read something new and challenging. This is what happiness looks like in this life. We experience happiness in spurts in the same way we put on a warm coat in the winter while taking it off in the summer; but we experience joy the way we live inside of the same body our entire lives. Our choice not to experience joy is the consequence of not receiving the hope and joy in something beyond that of ourselves and the ephemeralness of this world. Joy is provided in knowing Christ’s promises are set in stone—He not only fulfilled over 300 prophesies, He literally rose from the dead and was witnessed by over 500 people! Because of this, joy takes a new definition, and happiness becomes a reminder that what happiness we experience in this life is but a glimpse of what it will be in the future Kingdom to come.

THE REASON WHY WE DO “THE RIGHT THING”

Again, my soul has been renewed in Christ in that my reason for everything is now based on my faith in Christ, whereas before my reasons for being who I was capped off at explaining “I just wanted to do the right thing.” That is a secular response when it is the conclusion of our thoughts. When a Christian says, “I wanted to do the right thing,” they can and will further state that they wanted to do what Christ asked of them, or inspired them to do. A secular mind will stop at “the right thing” and be stumped when questioned further because they have no answer to offer in order to explain what makes the “right” choice the right one in their perspective. There is no scale or means of judging the right from the wrong because the secular mind allows morality to fall subjectively and arbitrarily per situation, and not every one of the more than 8 billion humans minds on this Earth would explain right from wrong, or good from bad the same way. In effect, doing the right thing is a weightless answer when it cannot be explained beyond the self. The difference then for the Christian is that our reason is not limited to the self, but rather, it begins with Christ and is then emanated through our actions to encourage others towards an exemplar far beyond the quarrels of human contradiction. 

LIVE IN JESUS’S NAME

When I finally understood that sunny faces weren’t necessary and that the best expression of Christ is allowing Him to work through us in every state or phase we’re in, I finally grasped that I can still worship Jesus even on a bad day. Many days, I just feel an indelible frown on my face and I don’t have a care in the world to turn it around. But what helps me is when I put Jesus first and help someone in need by doing so in His name. No matter how I feel (transient emotion), I can always live for Christ. When I am angry, I believe in bringing the reality of my rage to the Lord and being honest, surrendering the core reason for the rage and letting go by asking Jesus to take it away. How does that work? Trusting that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), calling a Christian friend who supports the belief in surrendering all anxiety to the Lord (1 Peter 5:7), and praying with a contrite heart. A contrite heart can be birthed from humbling ourselves with honesty. When we’re honest with ourselves, the truth usually reveals an intention or motive that we can either surrender to God in repentance, or one that we can accept His grace for in recognizing there is no reason to hang onto the hurt which led us to feel the anger. In these ways, casting our worries, fears, aggressions, and disappointments to Him can be rectified in His grace, mercy, love, fellowship, community, Scripture, and trust. Everything done in His holy name.

THOUGHTS?

What I would like for you to take away from this article is that if you’re a recently converted Christian and you think you have to wear a certain face to show Jesus to the world, just relax. Jesus can’t work through a facade. He can work through every authentic heart, however. When we are real, Jesus works through us the most. When we are angry, He wants us to come to Him. He asks us to come to Him as we are, not after we’ve figured ourselves out (which we hardly ever do anyways). If this is you, breathe, close your eyes, pray, and release your troubles to Him who saves. No cliché here. Let it go. No need to hang onto excess baggage. God can and will handle it—just allow Him to work through the real you. The disappointments, the rage, the bad days, everything. Let Him shine through you no matter where you are in your faith. Try to do it your way and others will not see Him, but instead the will see you trying to be someone you aren’t. Live the way He calls us to live—authentically and in faith—and He will work wonders through us. 

If you enjoyed reading 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. If you have any questions or thoughts, please share them with me in the comments below. May God bless you today

Controversy

Sharing Jesus With the World

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NIV)

How purposefully do we live when we don’t know or understand the love, grace, joy, and hope of Jesus Christ? 

When I hear others explain that they think people need to mind their own business, respectively, and not talk about faith or Jesus, I hear the calmness in their voice—their composure in choosing to walk through life in question and agnosticism. I lived as an agnostic and as an unbeliever for most of my life, so I understand this philosophy all too well.

Even while an atheist, I claimed myself to be a “good man” because I did “good things”. But, good things according to who? How did I know whether or not anything I did was actually “good”? How would I connect what I thought of as good to the concept of living a purposeful life if I was the one defining ‘good’ and ‘purposeful’? When we define these terms for ourselves, we live half-heartedly. Why? How else can we live when we don’t know who we serve?

We all serve someone or something, whether we admit to it or not. We serve idols when we become addicted to drugs, sex/pornography, alcohol, or even technology (spending hours on end looking through social media or texting, even when we’re in the presence of close friends), among others. How do we serve idols? By prioritizing them ahead of ourselves and others. We put our health in jeopardy when we spend hours on our phone when we could be sleeping. We jeopardize our minds when we watch lifeless TV shows that exploit promiscuous sex, gratuitous violence, and profane language. We jeopardize relationships when we’re so busy giving our time to our idols that we lose time to spend with loved ones. Ultimately, what does all of this have to do with Jesus? —When we don’t have Jesus, we fill ourselves up to the brim with the world.

The world is as close to Heaven as Heaven gets for an unbeliever because for the unbeliever, there is no Heaven. It doesn’t exist. When that is the case, not only is there no need for Jesus, there’s a deeper need to fulfill all the areas of our lives left unfulfilled and unattended to without faith in a Lord who provides for all of our needs. People under the illusion that a life of worldly pleasures is a fulfilled life have never met pure joy face-to-face. Joy in Christ feels radiant; permanent as it extends beyond mood or situation. Joy is a mentality and it is as ubiquitous as oxygen. Faithlessness gives us something to choke on like second-hand smoke: Not knowing the answers to anything we want to understand but refuse to question will only lead us to suffocate on the lies and manipulations of a world huffing and puffing the pollution of idols and addictions until these lies are met with the unconditional love found in faith in Jesus Christ. When we find unconditional love, there is no need to turn back. Faith in Jesus Christ paves the road to relationship, community, fulfillment, joy, hope, and teamwork; all the opposite characteristics of a life of idolatry, addiction, and the trap of indulgence: Isolation, shame, loneliness, solidarity, a lack of joy, and the assumption that the hope of today is found in the transience of self-pleasure.

Truly, how would others know about Jesus if His name was never mentioned? How viable is the argument for keeping silent the name of Jesus around those who don’t believe out of “respect for their choices”? I genuinely believe the people who attempt to stay away from Jesus’s name have had traumatic experiences with people who claim to be Christian but who never declared Jesus as Lord in their heart. For these people, Christianity carries a connotative, nearly indelible sting—regardless of whether or not they are okay with others believing in Christ as Lord. For those in this category who grew up with adults claiming the faith without any visible, noticeable life changes, Christianity has become the bruised image of something meant to be miraculous, but ultimately appearing to be damaged, ambiguous, and questionably detrimental. Christianity without joy and hope is not Christianity.

Claiming Christ as Lord and then having a temper tantrum over menial things proves a lack of control, and a lack of surrender to God. When we authentically surrender ourselves to Jesus, we are able to release the weight of our worries and stresses from our shoulders because we believe it is not us who has control over the solutions to our problems, but Jesus. Do you question whether or not your mom or dad—who fed you every day during childhood—had your best in mind? Like this, we don’t question God’s capabilities when we acknowledge His power in creating the universe and our planets, especially Earth, since it is the one planet capable of sustaining intelligent life. Because of this, our faith trains us to understand that if we can trust in God, we won’t need to be afraid of not having control over everything. This fearless response enables us to release our worries to Him, and in turn, this trust matures us spiritually as we stop depending on ourselves and start living in the hope of a caring, loving, trustworthy God named Jesus.

For those who did not experience any peer/parent/role model with an authentic life-altering change through faith, this may damage the picture of what faith looks like, but it does not change what Jesus is actually capable of doing. Remember, Jesus works in a softened, contrite heart, desiring His invitation to be loved and remade. Jesus cannot work in a hardened heart because we are given free will. A hardened heart says “No, I don’t need you, Jesus—You’re not my Lord,” and Jesus will not force us. He sends disciples (Matthew 28:19) to spread the word of His testimony, but He never forces us to believe.

From this, what we can take is that when no one speaks about Jesus, there is so little chance to find hope and joy in His perfect love for us. Additionally, there is hardly a means of changing our perspective that worldly, transient pleasures are life’s only purpose. And what a sad, disappointing culmination to life that would be with the atrocities that occur every day; like terrorism, sex trafficking, and homelessness. How do we look at life with these realities and think that self-indulgence is the purpose? 

Readers, I want to urge you to consider what these words mean for you and for others you know. Most of you who read this may not be unbelievers, but I’m sure you know several people who are. Let this be a reminder of the power of Jesus’s name, and that keeping quiet about Him is not “respecting others’ privacy”; being quiet is taking away others’ chance to know that there is a God who lives, and He came in the flesh to bless us with eternal life through Jesus, and Jesus wants us to experience life to the full (John 10:10). If we keep quiet, how can we make disciples of nations? How can we change others’ lives if we only point to ourselves, or to idols? How can we be a role model when our best impression is rooted in narcissism? How can we live purposefully when we only serve the world, and the world is only looking in the mirror and not to the hope of tomorrow? 

If you like what you’ve read here, please follow my blog and pass word along. 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 share this with anyone you think would benefit, and feel free to write in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!! May God bless you all!!