Thursday, April 29, 2021

Hearing Some ‘Nice’ News For a Change?

Remember the old saying, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all”? Well, these days there’s a parallel observation: If it weren’t for bad news, we wouldn’t have any news at all. But wait! There is some good news on the horizon – I think.


Recently I came across an informal, non-scientific survey that asked the question,
How nice of a person do you consider yourself to be?” An astounding 93% of the people that responded said they would describe themselves as “Very nice” (42%) or “Somewhat nice” (51%). Not one person said they would fit into the “Not at all nice” category. Gee, isn’t that…nice? Apparently Ebenezer Scrooge, Ivan the Terrible and Oscar the Grouch weren’t among those surveyed.


Isn’t it good to get some nice news? Or rather, nice to get some good news? Maybe. It depends on how you define “nice.” Does it mean someone who loves babies and puppies and kittens? One dictionary says it means “pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory.” If that’s the case, most of the 93% nice people must be staying off Facebook and Twitter, because many posts we see there, by that definition, aren’t exactly “nice.” Or pleasant, or agreeable.


To me, being nice doesn’t mean being a milquetoast individual with a perpetual smile and nary a harsh word escaping from his or her mouth. The best synonym for nice in my perspective is to be kind and considerate of others. Qualities we see all too rarely in our world, whether on social media, in news and talk show exchanges, or in angry protests.


Interestingly, we don’t find the word nice in the Bible. We’re not told as followers of Jesus to “go therefore and be nice.” However, it does speak much about kindness and compassion and love – the kind of love that puts others ahead of oneself. 


For instance, one of the qualities of knowing Christ is exhibiting what the Scriptures call “the fruit of the Spirit." Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Kindness, goodness and gentleness – those are three traits we would expect to find in a “nice” person.


Even more to the point is the admonition from Philippians 2:3-4, which says we are to, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” If you spent time with someone who acted in that way consistently, wouldn’t you consider them nice?


Many of us read that and think, “Yeah, that’s a nice ideal to strive for, but how do I succeed at doing it?” It gets back to what Jesus said when someone asked how to be assured of eternal life. Jesus responded by asking another question: “What is written in the Law?... How do you read it?” To which the inquirer replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’, and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus’ reply was simple: “You have answered correctly…. Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:25-28).


When we read this, we’re inclined to react, “Oh, that’s all? Well, no problem then!” Yeah, right! But in a nutshell, this sits at the center of living the so-called “Christian life,” as well as the secret to being a “nice person.” If we love God with everything we have, so that His character – His very life – can be manifested through us. Only then can we truly succeed at loving others as ourselves, as well as being able to put the interests of others on the same level as our own.


Everyone has a “god” of some sort. If it’s not the true God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, we’ll worship something else. And almost like a default setting on a computer, the god we’re most inclined to worship is ourselves.


When Jesus said, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the apostle Paul declared, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), they both were talking about the power to be, and to become – through Him – what we cannot apart from Him.


If we learn to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, we can demonstrate His love toward others. Will that make us “nice”? It depends on how we and others define the term, but we will be able to exhibit kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. And that’s not bad!

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