Christian – STOP BEING NICE
When I was a young Christian observing my older mentors, some of whom I imagine would have been on a similar page then, when it came to viewing the world, as I am now, I noted some getting grumpier as they got older, exemplars in part of members of the “we do not suffer fools gladly” brigade. The reality is, when we are young, we may make allowances for and even go along with the nonsense, and sometimes we may not even realise that is what it is, but when we are old and have seen the ugly side of life, we know too well what it is and don’t care letting people know what we think.
Of course, winsomeness is generally a good thing and it was said concerning the one we claim to follow, Jesus of Nazareth, that he was full of grace and truth and the trick, perhaps, is getting the balance right. There is a lot to be said about reaching out to them who are not of the faith and trying to get along with everyone as best I could was once my guiding principle to life, and to an extent still is, despite having upset many Christian leaders by expressing opinions, unacceptable according to many in society. Finding common ground and trying to remove what might be seen as stumbling blocks, and there are lots of them, and do so hoping we may draw them to faith, is good, surely? But I want to make the case being nice is not the way to go. It is not a matter of being nice is better than not nice (often a criticism aimed at Christians) but rather to be God’s holy people.
When I tell the story of how I became a full-time community activist some twenty years ago, I often reflect that God has a sense of humour. My own religious background is Plymouth Brethren. One of the features of PBism at its worst, and one that back in the day sometimes drew adverse publicity, is their application of the separation from evil idea (which is biblical), which to some meant not going along with and keeping apart from what was going on in the world (which is under the control of the devil), extending this to Christians that did not go along with them and unbelieving family members. For the record, that was not the brand of PBism I associated with, but there was a reluctance to get involved with anything worldly or enterprises (not required by law or business) with those not of the faith. The divine SOH bit came in when later I found myself working with those of all faiths and none and a wide spectrum of ideologies and interests in order to best serve our communities. Only a few shared my religious beliefs. My intention was to do something positive for my community, especially in the area of social justice. I tell my story in Outside the Camp and can now do a full SWOT analysis on becoming a community activist.
I became a Christian aged 15 (I am now 70 – scary or what lol). In my darker moments, I consider my life to have been shrouded in pain and myself to have been overall a failure. Realistically, I see the hand of God. Some of the pain was trying to live for God in a culture that is opposed to God, accentuated sometimes by my own folly, all of which He had factored in, in my getting to where I am today. I see my peers dying around me on a regular basis. Besides wondering why I am still here, I recognise my arduous journey, which has included a good deal of depression and despondency (including with churches and church leaders right across the ecclesiological spectrum), was for a purpose, one of which is to, as winsomely as I can, tell my fellow Christians to stop being nice and at the same time NOT to be like my PB forefathers by failing to get involved in the world in which we live which, as sad as it may seem, is without God.
One of the observations my wife made coming from India some twenty-five years ago to live in the UK was she found that people often were nice but too often it was superficial and the nice veneer went away when one’s back was turned. But my call goes deeper than that. As a community activist interested in tackling societal injustice, I might be expected to endorse the wokeness that I see in some / many churches, since according to definition to be woke is be alert to injustice in society, but then it often goes a lot further than that, including embracing political (especially of the left) ideology and downplaying the Gospel message so not to offend those who look on Christians with suspicion anyway, such that one may sit under the preaching of a woke preacher and hear sermonettes on climate change, racial injustice and LBGTQ+ inclusion, coupled with acquiescing to an agenda governed by political correctness, and hear little old fashioned gospel preaching, including on the actuality of sin and the need for repentance or anything more than superficial biblical exegesis. And before those objecting to wokeism in churches say Amen, consider the world as it is – are you awake to what is truly going on and how are you responding, in terms of preaching the gospel and contributing (and granted one is limited in what one can do) to tackling injustice, confronting the evil in the world and playing your part seriously when you pray “Thy Kingdom Come”?
There is a danger, and the evidence is Christians are in danger of losing their nerve in order not to offend others or choose to go with the flow or, in the PB case, withdraw from the world altogether, so they can live a quiet (hassle free) life. Those who don’t go along with these woke and anti-woke positions are often (nicely) ostracised, especially if also subscribing to conspiracy theories. We are living in alarming (or exciting – depending how you look on it) days and none of us knows what is round the corner other than that God wins in the end, making it even more necessary to stand firm and stand strong in the Lord, whatever other peoples’ expectations.
But my point is that it ought not be about being NICE but rather to do with doing the right thing, and that means faithfully following the Master come what may, who we are beholden to please before any human, who served the dregs of humanity (as well as the higher ups), who told it as it was, e.g. speaking of the reality of Hell for the impenitent, and who was FULL of Grace and Truth. Besides which, the two great commands to do with loving God and our neighbour still applies and, of course, so is being holy in the true biblical sense. In fact, Jesus predicted: if we live like Him, we will suffer as a result, yet that is the way, dear Christian, we ought to live.