02
Feb
21

Should we be nice?

Today, while taking the dogs for a walk in the park, I saw a hand-painted sign leaning against a fence. It was big… probably four feet high and six feet wide. Every letter on the sign was painted a different color, and it said:

“BE KIND.”

As the dogs and I finished our walk, I looked at the minivan across the parking lot and saw a message there in white letters across the back window. It said:

“I HOPE SOMETHING GOOD HAPPENS TO YOU TODAY.”

“Wow!” I thought to myself. “How cool is THAT! I go out and find myself surrounded by positive, uplifting messages. With everything going on in the world today, those people have decided they are going to be positivity evangelists!”

“Well done, y’all!” (In case you are not aware, “y’all” is the plural of “you” in many parts of the country.)

There was nothing complicated about either message. They weren’t inviting me to join a club. They weren’t trying to sell me on a complex doctrine. They didn’t want me to give them a percentage of my income every month. They didn’t have a sneaky pyramid scheme that required me to enlist friends and family members. 

They were just putting the good juju out there in the atmosphere, hoping it connected with someone.

And then I had to stop and wonder, “Why can’t the Christian faith be simple and straightforward like that? Why do we have to muddy it up with all those convoluted theological dogmas and ‘rules of engagement’? Don’t we want to entice people and not repel them?”

“I mean, couldn’t Christians just say we are part of the ‘BE KIND CLUB’ and let it go at that?” 

For a lot of folks, it seems like a pretty big leap to say they believe in a deity who became a human being, died, and then came back from the dead three days later. But it is not hard at all to encourage them to say, “I believe in being kind to other people.”

So, what’s the problem? Why are we (Christians) so hung up on whether someone speaks the exact “phrase that pays” instead of just worrying about what they DO?

In the interest of full disclosure, I will confess that I am trolling you here a bit. I actually DO believe that confessing Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of one’s life DOES make a qualitative difference in that life. I also believe that a person’s actions and words are much more important than their professed systems of belief… even though those actions and words flow directly FROM those systems of belief. And I ABSOLUTELY believe that there is much more to the Christian faith than just being kind to other people.

In fact, would it surprise you to hear me say that I don’t believe that the Christian faith has much at all to do with being nice to people?

Loving them? Yes. Absolutely. Unconditionally, even. But as Jesus demonstrated over and over again, LOVING another person doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with BEING NICE to them.

Jesus gave a very succinct summary of his mission on earth in John’s gospel when he said, “… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NRSV). 

In other words, he came to revive relationships, break cycles of addiction, lift up the downtrodden, snap chains of injustice, bring hope, infuse possibility. In short, he came break down every barrier that separates people from the abundant life God always intended for them (us). 

If being kind, gentle, and sweet to a person helped connect them with that “abundant life,” so be it! Jesus would be like, “Bring on the kind, gentle, and sweet.” If, on the other hand, bringing about abundant life meant employing the proverbial “swift kick in the pants” approach, he would not hesitate to administer that.

So yes, let’s redouble our efforts. Let’s offer a smile to a total stranger on the sidewalk. Let’s make eye contact and give a kind word to the cashier at the convenience store. Let’s pay for the person behind us in the McDonald’s drive-through. Let’s call someone on the phone, “just because…”

But let’s also join Team Jesus and help bring the abundant life he was after. 

Abundant blessings;


7 Responses to “Should we be nice?”


  1. 1 ephesians413
    February 2, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    Thank you for a thoughtful post that made me reflect on so many issues. I agree that this world sure would be a better place if more people could find it in their hearts to be kind. It’s true that Jesus wanted us to treat our neighbors as we would want to be treated. He gave us the story of the good Samaritan as well. However, I also agree with your point that the path he showed us toward the abundant life went beyond that. We need to take the whole of his life as our example. He took the commandments a step higher. Do not kill became don’t even let hatred rule in your heart. Love your enemies, not just those who love you. Don’t commit adultery became don’t even lust after someone else’s wife (or husband). So, there are principles involved in being a Christian that go along with the emotions of love and affection for our brothers and sisters. If we all read of Jesus’ life more and try to put his words into practice, people will take note of our truth and our unfeigned love.

  2. 5 Gary H Coffman
    February 2, 2021 at 11:49 pm

    Actually y’all is singular. All y’all is plural. Y’all’s is singular possessive and All y’all’s is plural possessive. Examples: “Git y’all’s dog offen my porch!” , “All y’all’s git yer kids offen my yard.” Bet you didn’t know us hillbillies had rules for this stuff.

    • February 3, 2021 at 2:58 am

      Gary, if anyone can set me straight on proper hillbilly grammar, it would be you. Thank you for that education!

      • 7 Gary and Karen Coffman
        February 3, 2021 at 4:45 am

        Well, I have an obligation to uphold my heritage and just couldn’t let this one go by. And thank you for “Russellings”. Good stuff and we try not to miss an edition.


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