by Kelly Givens
Most of the Christians I know are pretty nice people. Of course there are exceptions, but I’m thankful that the majority of believers I interact with on a regular basis are nice and considerate.
But Bedlam Magazine contributor Sidney Hays thinks Christians should stop being so nice.
What she means is this: if you’ve ever been a part of Christian community, you’ve likely had friends who encourage and build you up. But what may be missing in your community is kindness. According to Sidney, “being nice is cowardice. Being kind is bravery.”
“I’ve never been a fan of stopping at being ‘nice,’” she writes. “It always seemed cheap. To be nice is to say positive things and fill space. Being nice means never hurting anyone’s feelings. It means never calling someone out when they hurt you. Being nice is avoiding conflict to avoid the tension. To be nice is not to set up boundaries after being hurt.”
“To be kind is to embrace the tension. Kindness sits in the tension of truth and potential. Telling someone what they need to hear, rather than what they want to hear. When we are kind, we share the heart of Jesus with someone, telling them how loved they are while reminding them of the amazing power alive in them, through Jesus’ death on the cross. To be kind is to embrace tension and conflict for the benefit of someone you love.”
Much of the time, our fear of speaking the truth comes from not wanting to offend. But this can have horrible consequences, as Crosswalk contributor Kathi Macias shares from personal experience.
Decades ago, Kathi worked for a small church which “had once burned with passion for Jesus but had since fallen into a deplorable lukewarm state of social acceptance.” In charge of the monthly church newsletter, Kathi shared her personal testimony, and in doing so proclaimed the bold truth that Jesus Christ was the absolute ONLY way to heaven. She would never forget what happened next:
“A few days later an elderly man came into the office and demanded to speak to the pastor, and he insisted that I accompany him into the pastor’s office. I did, and as I stood there in the doorway, I watched and listened as that man planted himself in front of the pastor’s desk, slammed the newsletter down in front of him, and demanded, ‘Is this true?’”
The pastor was stunned and asked what the man meant. The gentleman explained that he wanted to know if what I’d said about repenting and accepting Jesus as my Savior and being “born again” was absolutely the ONLY way to heaven. The pastor’s eyes glazed over for a moment, and his Adam’s apple bobbed a bit before he answered. Finally he bowed his head and nodded.
And then the old man’s voice dropped and trembled, as tears formed in his eyes and he asked the man who claimed to be his earthly shepherd, ‘Then why didn’t you tell me? I’ve sat in your church and listened to your sermons for years. Why didn’t you tell me?’
The pastor, his head still bowed in shame, answered, ‘Because I didn’t want to offend you.’”
This sad story is an important reminder of what’s at stake if we’re not willing to share the truth with our Christian brothers and sisters. The gospel compels us not to simply be the friend who always agrees, but the friend who gently, kindly reminds others of what is true.
Crosswalk contributor Dawn Yoder explains it like this. “Being completely honest with others involves risk: the risk of being judged unfairly, the risk of rejection, or the risk of losing face. When we are bound to the worry about pleasing others, the thought of laying down our pride stings too deeply. It can cause us to become slaves to that fear and stay forever bound to those lies. When we are honest with others, we show that our self-worth and confidence is not tied to their approval or their acceptance. When we are honest, we show ourselves to be a person of both integrity and confidence.”
Let’s decide today to be men and women of faith who are not simply nice, but kind. Let’s be brave enough to call out sin, and to remind our brothers and sisters of the gospel when they forget it. As Dawn concludes, “Hearing the truth, speaking the truth, and walking in the truth may not always be easy, but we can be assured that it is the manner of living which will ultimately bring the most joy, peace, and prosperity.”