Are you a nice person? Is that something a Christian should be?
Mary Ann and I had a chance to preview a movie that is being released in theaters just before Thanksgiving this year. It’s a new Tom Hanks film called It’s A Beautiful Day. And it tells the story of the impact Fred Rogers (that’s the man most of us know as Mr. Rogers) had on a journalist who wrote a profile on his life in Esquire magazine back in 1998.
Mr. Rogers was a nice man. People who knew him off camera say that what we saw was not an act. He was not playing a part. The tone he used speaking to his audience of children on TV was the same tone he used for everyone. He was guided by his faith and by a unique awareness of the emotions all of us experience – the emotions children aren’t sure what to do with and that most adults try to manage or deny.
He was a nice man. The dictionary defines nice as “pleasant or agreeable.” He had a calming, soothing affect on people around him, as nice people often do. He was not mean or unpleasant.
Does God want us to be nice people? Do a quick search for that word in most translations of the Bible, and you’ll find exactly zero verses that contain the word “nice.” Eugene Peterson includes the word in his paraphrase of the Bible, but always descriptively and not prescriptively.
Instead of being nice, the Bible calls us to be kind and meek. Pastor Tim Keller describes kindness as “a sincere desire for the happiness of others.” Alexander Strauch takes the idea further. He says kindness is “a readiness to do good, to help, to relieve burdens, to be useful, to serve, to be tender and to be sympathetic toward others. It has been said, ‘Kindness is love in work clothes.’”
“Be kind to one another,” the Apostle Paul tells the Ephesians. Be “tender hearted.” (Eph. 4:32).
New Testament scholars tell us that the Greek word that is translated kindness in our Bibles is an interesting word. It appears that the Apostle Paul made it up. He took the Greek noun τητος, ἡ (Chrestos) and turned it into a verb, just like we’ve done in our day with the proper noun Google. We now google things.
Chrestos is translated a variety of ways in the Bible: easy, better, good, gracious and kind. Everywhere the word is found, in all of Greek literature, it’s always a noun.
Except in the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul turns chrestos into a verb and puts kindness in motion. He says kindness acts. Kindness does. Kindness makes things easier and better. Kindness extends grace.
Meekness is not wimpy-ness or softness, as we often think of it. It is power under control. A meek person is combines humility with the ability to control his passions.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:3).
My favorite biblical illustration of meekness is in 1 Samuel 24. King Saul is pursuing David. He has become jealous of him and is hoping to kill him. David and his men are hiding in a cave near Engedi, when they see Saul coming into the cave to rest. David’s men tell David that this is God’s doing God has delivered his enemy into his hand! But David will not take the life of his king, who he describes as “the Lord’s anointed.” Instead, while Saul sleeps, David creeps in and cuts a corner from Saul’s robe so he can show the king that he had opportunity but did not harm him.
Put meekness and kindness together, and you have something that is much deeper and much richer than being nice. Nice is good. It’s better to be nice than to be unpleasant or mean.
But we are called to more than kindness as Christians. Something that is more active and more revolutionary. We are called to kindness and meekness. Being nice to someone can change your relationship with that person. Being kind and being meek can change the world.
The women’s retreat is now a little more than two weeks away. There are still five open spots for the two night getaway. I asked Laura White about what’s planned for the weekend, and she asked me to pass this along to all of our women:
Ladies, have you been looking for an opportunity to throw an axe? How about learn how to draw or journal? Have you been longing for a weekend to rest and study God’s word uninterrupted? Or maybe really wishing you had a chance to get to know other ladies at Redeemer? Well we’ve got great news! You will have the opportunity to do any and all of those things October 18-20 at the women’s fall retreat at Crossheirs Retreat Center! There are still five spots available so sign up by emailing Laura White at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There you have it. Axe throwing and Bible study. What else could a woman ask for?
This is a Kids Small Group week at church. Here’s all the info:
In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist is the first to encounter Jesus. What follows is a busy week, as Jesus calls His first disciples – men who are so convinced that Jesus is the Messiah that they leave everything to follow Him.
We’ll meet these men as we continue to study John’s gospel this Sunday
See you in church!
Soli Deo Gloria!