Thursday, August 06, 2015

Be Careful of Nice People

"Now you be nice to your sister." “Make sure you play nice tonight.” “He is such a nice young man.” As human beings, it seems that we are drawn to niceness. We like nice people and encourage people to behave in nice ways. We dislike people who aren’t nice or who don’t behave in nice ways. We teach our children to be nice and juxtapose niceness with a host of vices: grumpiness, cruelty, mean-spiritedness.

In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts the qualities of fleshly, worldly people with the qualities of Spirit-filled, godly people. He lists the fruit of the Spirit, those character traits that ought to mark God’s people, saying, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (vv. 22–23). Conspicuously absent from Paul’s list is niceness. Kindness is there; patience and gentleness too. But not niceness.

Why isn’t niceness a fruit of the Spirit? Because niceness is a hollow trait that a human can generate even without the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Niceness may require some force of will in the face of disagreement or controversy. It may require restraint. But it does not require an inward transformation. Keep reading
Niceness is a mask that people wear. The teenage boy who is alleged to have raped and murdered a seven year old girl just to see what would happen is described by the people in his neighborhood as a "nice kid." He is not first killer to which the description of a "nice guy" has been affixed. People use niceness to dissemble their real selves. They may have been taught to show a smiling face to the world while inside they are angry and harbor murderous intentions. A smiling face may also conceal the lack of a conscience, one of the characteristics of a sociopath. 

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