Is following Jesus just about being “nice”?

Being nice is something I think us Brits are very good at. We form orderly queues, we don’t like to offend, and we say “sorry” a lot. And sometimes we transfer that into what it means to be a Christian, so that our external expression of being a follower of Jesus is just simply that we are “nice”.

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(image source http://goo.gl/l5jkHW)

Strange, really, because anyone who’s ever looked seriously at the Jesus in the bible would not simply describe him as “nice”. And as we’re called to imitate Him I wonder why we’ve ended up with all this nice-ness.

Was Jesus encouraging? Yes.

Was He kind? Yes.

Was He Compassionate? Yes.

But He wasn’t just those things. He spoke with authority. He operated supernaturally. He loved radically. He challenged his disciples, the Pharisees and the crowds. He spoke to the heart of people. His words were divisive.

We often assume that to love someone is simply to be “nice” to them. But Jesus gives us a much bigger picture of what it really means to love. It’s easy to imagine the Pharisees squirming at some of the challenge that He brought to them – I’m guessing it didn’t feel that “nice”. And yet we know He wholeheartedly loved the Pharisees, just as He loves us.

And then there’s the Rich Young Man in Mark 10. The text says that Jesus looked at him “and felt genuine love for him”. This was a sincere conversation of love. But Jesus loved the man too much to leave him unchallenged. The Rich Young Man genuinely wanted to know what he needed to inherit eternal life. And Jesus gave it to him straight. He didn’t skirt around the issue, trying to be “nice”. Jesus challenged the young man to sell all he had and then follow Him.

And I’m guessing Zacchaeus nearly fell out of the tree when Jesus asked if he could visit his house. Nobody “nice” or respectable would want to spend time with a man like Zacchaeus, as the crowds around at the time inferred.  But as Zacchaeus was confronted with the love and holiness of Jesus he saw himself for who he really was, and it led him straight to repentance.

And He doesn’t skirt around the issue with us either. Jesus wants His followers to be more than just “nice”. He wants spirit-filled sons & daughters, friends, servants who will respond to both the challenge and invitation that he brings.  And He wants us to overflow with that kind of double-edged love that He has poured into us. As followers of Jesus we have the same spirit of God living in us that raised Jesus from the dead. (Romans 8:11). It’s more than just nice.

And the extravagant, overwhelming, death-defeating love that Christ demonstrated when, for all of us – “nice” or not – he went to the cross and bled and died is so much more than nice. It’s astonishing, breathtaking, outrageous, life-changing, challenging, full-of-grace-and-power love.

Sometimes we have to unpick how our culture affects our faith, so that we’re able to stand back and see with fresh eyes who our Jesus really is, and how He really calls us to live.

Let’s let this love change us – we’re called to be so much more than “nice”.

(this is a re-post of a post originally posted in November 2012)

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8 thoughts on “Is following Jesus just about being “nice”?

  1. I really love this post. I’m wondering if you might consider letting us use this post as a guest post on our blog? Of course we would cite the author and link back to your blog. Let me know! God Bless! -Rebekah L

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      • Hi Anna,
        Thanks so much. We have tentatively set you up for your guest post to go up this Sunday, but I will let you know if anything changes.

        I added the paragraph below as a byline. It was taken from your “Who we are” page. We can edit this any way you like, I just used it as a starting point. You can also completely write up something from scratch and I’ll include that instead or in conjunction with this. Just let me know what changes you want and I’ll have at it 🙂

        Byline: “The Robinsons are a lovely bunch from Sheffield, UK. They love God and are passionate about showing and sharing Jesus to the community and helping others do the same.They lead 3dm UK and Rich (Anna’s husband) is on staff at Network Church Sheffield, and they are part of the Order of Mission – a relational network of missional leaders. To learn more about the Robinson Family check out their blog at: annarobbo.wordpress.com today!”

        Thanks. We’re excited to add you to our growing family of guest bloggers!
        Love, Rebekah L

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  2. Hi Rebekah,
    Thanks – just a couple of amendments to the Byline (I need to slightly update the info on the “who we are” section!)

    Could it read as follows:

    The Robinsons are a lovely bunch from Sheffield, UK. They love God and are passionate about showing and sharing Jesus to the community and helping others do the same. They lead 3dm Europe and they’re part of the Order of Mission – a relational network of missional leaders. To learn more about the Robinson Family check out their blog at: annarobbo.wordpress.com today!”

    Thanks!

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  3. Many Bible-believing Evangelical Christians say they are following Jesus – but really,
    Many Bible-believing Evangelical Christians SAY they are following Jesus, but in truth, they are following Paul instead. It’s not the same thing.

    Here is a comparison of the teachings of Jesus vs. Paul regarding the Most Important Commandment.

    JESUS
    Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
    Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]

    Of all the commandments, which is the most important?
    “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than THESE.” [Mark 12:28-31, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18]

    PAUL
    But, in contrast, Paul didn’t know the greatest, most important, first commandment according to Jesus. Paul made up his own rule. Paul wrote:
    “The entire law is summed up in a SINGLE command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Galatians 5:14, Leviticus 19:18]

    And again, Paul wrote:
    “He how loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not covet, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this ONE RULE: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [Romans 13:8-10, Leviticus 19:18]

    Jesus said it’s TWO commandments, with the greatest, most important, first command to .1) first, love God with everything you’ve got, and 2) second, love people.

    Paul said no, it ONE commandment- to love people.
    Paul, and the Beatles, were wrong. (no offense against you Brits)
    Jesus is right. I’m following Jesus.

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  4. According to Jesus, which Commandment is the Most Important?

    This is a question of fact about the content of the text in the 66 Books of our Bible. It is comparing the words of Jesus with the words of Paul (and other men) regarding which one is the Most Important Commandment and which one is the Second commandment, which together fulfill the Law and the Prophets. (Not The Law the Prophets & the Writings, not “All Scripture,” not “The whole Bible”)

    It isn’t a question of men’s opinions about “what Paul really meant” or “what Paul must have known” or “what Paul was actually referring to here” or “what Paul was clearly implying” or “what we must conclude that Paul was assuming”, etc. etc.

    These lines of reasoning all go back to the false idea that “Paul must have been right and Paul couldn’t possibly be wrong, so whatever Paul was thinking at the time must have been correct, and we just have to figure out what Paul’s intended meaning was and what Paul was really thinking when he wrote these words.” That would mean that your opinion about the unknowable unwritten “mind of Paul” becomes the “Word of God.” No. Wrong.

    Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. The words spoken by Jesus, recorded in our Bible by Matthew Mark Luke & John, should be above all other words. This has literally been the Orthodox position for almost 2000 years. Paul is inferior, Jesus is superior. The words of Jesus are superior to the words of everyone else in the Bible and to everyone else in the world. Jesus is in agreement with the Law and the Prophets and came “to fulfill them.” [Matthew 5:17-20]

    What Jesus clearly and specifically said is also superior and more important than your opinions about what you think Jesus meant or implied, but didn’t say elsewhere. For example, when Jesus was speaking about “a new command I give you,” Jesus didn’t say THE new commandment, or the FIRST commandment, or the MOST IMPORTANT commandment, or the ONE commandment, or the GREATEST commandment, or ONE RULE.

    The false teaching about “one rule” is the false teaching of the Pharisees of Paul’s day, and Paul the Pharisee was pushing this false teaching. This contradicts the clear specific teaching of Jesus about the first and greatest commandment and the second. Jesus warned us about the Pharisees in Matthew chapters 15 & 16, and quoted the Prophet Isaiah regarding them:
    “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”
    [Isaiah 29:13]

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