Jesus, Mr. Nice God

Was Jesus always nice? OK, so it’s not the deepest theological question we’ve ever tackled here at The Two Cities. But it’s an important one. Because, above all, the...
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Was Jesus always nice?

OK, so it’s not the deepest theological question we’ve ever tackled here at The Two Cities. But it’s an important one. Because, above all, the world expects Christians to be nice. Forget about holiness, evangelism and social justice. Just be nice.

But if Christians bear any resemblance to Christ (and we should), we won’t always be nice—at least not by man’s standard. Spend a little time with your Bible and you’ll see that Jesus wasn’t always Mr. Nice God.

Think about those poor merchants and moneychangers. “Nice” was the last word on their mind when Jesus stormed into the temple with a whip he’d handcrafted just for them (John 2:15). The house of God never saw such a mess! Tables overturned, coins scattered, pigeon feathers flying. Maybe even a few bruises and black eyes. Jesus was on a mission to glorify God and (unfortunately for the temple janitors) nice had nothing to do with it.

Think about the scribes and Pharisees. They got an earful of those classic Jesus insults: brood of vipers, whitewashed tombs, hypocrites, children of hell. Even Peter, one of the Lord’s closest friends, got slammed with that infamous rebuke “Get behind me, Satan.” Throw out any of these terms today and the world will call you unchristian. Would they have said the same about Jesus?

Think about the churches in the Book of Revelation. You think being spit out of someone’s mouth is a “nice” metaphor? That’s what Jesus said he’d do to the lukewarm church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:16). Or how about the churchgoers in Sardis? He told them they were as good as dead (3:1). And these are the “good” guys! Can’t imagine all the “nice” things he’ll have to say when he throws Satan and his minions into the lake of fire.

Of course, Jesus didn’t get a kick out of being mean, and neither should we. After all, kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. But being nice certainly wasn’t his highest goal. He wasn’t opposed to a redemptive beat down or some sanctified name-calling, especially when God’s glory was at stake. His outbursts and insults and rebukes always had a purpose. These accounts tell us something about God and about ourselves. Like the father who chastises his children, it’s for our good—even if it leaves us a little red in the face.

So no, Jesus wasn’t always nice. Yet the world still expects “nice” to be the distinguishing feature of those who follow Christ. And because we’re people-pleasers, we oblige. Turns out some Christians are even nicer than Jesus. They don’t confront sin, they don’t take a stand on moral issues, they don’t talk about the cross or repentance or atonement. It’s easier to be quiet, to be liked, to be nice.

Not that we should seek to be mean. Paul tells us to speak the truth in love. But what does love sound like? Is it the syrupy Southern drawl of Joel Osteen, or the fiery tenor of Jonathan Edwards? Is it telling unbelievers they’re OK as long as they’re happy, or telling them they’re sinners who need a Savior?

To the world’s ears, love will always sound a little mean. Sharing the gospel requires telling people the bad news first, and that’s never nice. I’m sure the woman at the well wasn’t thrilled when Jesus called her out on her sexual immorality. But it was the truth shared in love that changed her heart, and the hearts of “many Samaritans” (John 4:39).

Like Jesus, we need to risk people thinking we’re mean for the sake of the gospel. Maybe then we’ll start seeing people repent and believe and rejoice and worship—a lot like those Samaritans.

Wouldn’t that be nice!

 

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Christology
Bryan Magana

Bryan has a master's degree in English, a full-time job in public relations, and the gift of joyful singleness. He leads worship at his church in Utah and enjoys traveling, singing, playing games, hiking, and eating out. He can be reached at kindasortayeahnotreally@gmail.com
5 Comments on this post.

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  • Jon Baker
    27 November 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks Bryan for the thoughts! Though I must admit that when I read this article, I imagined you saying it out loud, and that made everything sound ‘nice’ again. :) And I do mean that as a compliment.

    Also, when the term ‘brood of vipers’ is read ‘seeds of serpents’ (to highlight the literary echo), the accusation takes on a whole ironic set of theological baggage, which makes it even less ‘nice’. I hope that adds to your main point. :)

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    • Bryan Magana
      Bryan Magana
      27 November 2012 at 4:47 pm

      That is SO COOL!

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  • kathy
    27 November 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Thanks Bryan;

    It’s getting hot in the kitchen so we are going to have to stand our ground on the issue of faith sometime in the near future.

    I read a few chapters in Ezekial the other day and God told Ezekial what it would be like to face people who are in rebellion against God, ” But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house”

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  • Susie
    27 November 2012 at 6:43 pm

    As I recall Jesus said to the woman “Go and sin no more.”

    Now that’s hard! A good portion of people today think anything goes. People think that someday they will repent and maybe change but they’re living for today. There’s so much free sex and free love and free drugs and free food and free housing and free freedom. Nothing is free (except Christ’s gift of eternal life).

    Back in the Revolution it was the preachers in the pulpits who called people to arms to fight for freedom. They led the way. Now preachers are afraid they will lose their tax exempt status.

    Thank you Bryan as always. People need to realize God doesn’t have a perpetual smile on His face seeing His children sin. It grieves Him to tears.

    God bless you Bryan.

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  • Mar
    4 March 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Just a thought … are you sure that Jesus was saying anything to the woman at the well about “immorality?” What he said was that she had five husbands, and the man she was with had not married her. Women weren’t free to divorce, they were the “recipients” of a man casting her aside … some of the men may have also died. It’s a possibility that this woman had experienced serial rejection, not serial immorality. Just something to think about :)

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