Being nice: Is that the aim? (#4)

It would be possible to get the impression that the goal of the Christian life is to become nicer. What I mean is that many in the realm of Christendom project the idea that the distinguishing characteristic of Christians is that they are nice. Thus if you encounter a person who is nice, you must have encountered a Christian. People who are of this mindset or who attend churches where the dominant thought is that being a Christian means being nice can very well become trapped in a prison of “nice” without ever encountering Jesus Christ and without ever being saved.

But the reality is that the awful violence done to Jesus Christ in His death on Calvary’s cross was not accomplished so that we could become nicer people. The wickedness of man and the twisted nature of the human heart and the wrath of God against sin were the issues that required Jesus’ death, and it had nothing to with how relatively nice people appeared to be.

Again, God did not have His Son murdered on a Roman cross so that you would be nice and go to a nice church and say nice prayers before dinner and at bedtime and so that you could say nice things to your neighbors. The death of Christ was not accomplished so that decent people could become nice. For the Bible makes clear that, while on the outside we may look upright and polite and nice, on the inside, in the heart we are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).

Please don’t get the idea that I am opposed to being nice. I like to be around nice people just like you do. What I am opposing is “nice” as an end in itself, as the goal of the believer’s life. Being outwardly nice is utterly insignificant for people who are inwardly wicked, perverse, selfish, shamed, hateful, and broken. The requirement to please God is perfect righteousness, not to present a thin veneer of niceness over an unconverted heart. So how do those who are unrighteous and those whose “every intention of the thoughts of their heart are only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5) approach the living God? How can the unrighteous be acceptable to a holy God? Do they resolve to be nice? No! They must encounter the risen Christ and believe in Him and repent of their sins and commit to follow Jesus for the rest of their life and for eternity. In so doing, they have been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20) and have been given the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14) so that all their sins are nailed forever to the cross. Thus the brokenness wrought by their sins can be exposed to the glorious light of Christ and can be redeemed, and those who once spent their lives in uselessness and wickedness can be gradually conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). And then, as their lives begin to take on a greater holiness, then, yes, they will probably become nicer people. But the aim is holiness and practical righteousness, not niceness.

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