I’ve noticed throughout my adult years that followers of Christ are judged among ourselves and by unbelievers around us using what I consider to be an unfair measuring stick. We are often considered hypocritical based on misconceptions that people have about how Jesus Christ interacted with the people of his day. It is often assumed that Christ only spoke calmly even with his sharpest critics and that his love was displayed in how he always treated people nicely no matter how they treated him. His being nice to people, as thought in some circles, meant that he never was confrontational and that he never told people how wrong their actions or intentions were. He just went around telling everyone that God loved them and wanted to be a part of their lives while he healed them and did other good works on their behalf for their benefit.
I will admit that many who have claimed to be Christians through the centuries have committed some unbelievable atrocities. Some of them weren’t Christians at all, although they may have led others to believe they were, while others may have been Christians that made some unwise decisions that hurt their fellow man. But for followers of Christ to be judged on how nice we are to other people, because it is believed Jesus was always nice, is itself a misguided belief. Jesus encountered all kinds of people with different personalities, characters, and mindsets. Therefore, he had to shape his message in different ways to reach different people and his message was not always nice. Sometimes it was in-your-face confrontational, while at other times it was gentle and compassionate. Sometimes he called people fools, while at other times he called other people blessed. But whether he was nice or not so nice, he was always directing people’s attention to the Heavenly Father.
Here are a few examples of when Jesus wasn’t nice, confronting people about their wrong actions based on their wrong way of thinking:
- John 6:22-66 — After Jesus fed the 5,000 he crossed the Sea of Galilee (Sea of Tiberias) with his disciples to go teach in Capernaum. The people who he fed realized the next day that he had left town, so they crossed the sea to Capernaum looking for him. Upon finding him, they asked him, “When did you get here?” Jesus knew that they weren’t looking for him because of the healings he had performed in their presence. “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” Jesus confronted them about only wanting a free lunch to fill their bellies by telling them to “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you…” He then had a lengthy teaching on how he was the bread of life from heaven that could give them eternal life. A lot of them were offended by what he said and “walked no more with him.”
- Luke 11:37-54 — Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s house for a meal. He went directly to the table to sit down to eat instead of going through the long, drawn-out cleansing rituals the Pharisees had established which they demanded to be done before meals. The Lord then confronted them about how they were so obsessed with outward appearances that they neglected to clean up their wicked hearts. He even called them fools. Then he attacked all of the evil customs the Pharisees, scribes, and their lawyer associates were participating in that displeased God, while they argued with him on the points he made. Needless to say, it wasn’t a very pleasant meal in the end.
- John 4:7-29 — The Lord and his disciples were travelling from Judea to Galilee by going through Samaria. While the disciples went ahead to the next town to find food, Jesus stayed behind and met a Samaritan woman at a nearby well. He then engaged her in conversation and even got in her business by mentioning all the men she had been with and the man who she was shacking up with. In today’s times, Jesus probably would have been cursed out for not minding his own business at this point. The Samaritan woman then tried to change the subject to religion and where the correct place to worship was, thinking to point out how the Jews were wrong. Then Jesus proceeded to point out how wrong she was by telling her “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” He basically told her that her people were so off-kilter in their religious practices, they didn’t know what they were worshipping. Not a very nice thing to say, but everything he said got her attention and directed her and her people to God in the end.
- John 8:31-47 — Upon finishing his teaching that he is the light of the world, Jesus spoke to the Jews who had acknowledged intellectually what he had said, but they had not turned their hearts to God. After they made the claim that Abraham was their father, Jesus pointed out to them that “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” In one fell swoop, he said they were children of the devil, had murderous hearts, and loved lies. I guess he put Mr. Nice Guy on the back burner for a minute.
- Mark 3:1-5 — Jesus went to synagogue one sabbath and saw a man with a withered hand. The Jews running the synagogue believed it was wrong to heal on the sabbath because healing was considered work and working was forbidden on the sabbath. But Jesus asked them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?” When no one answered, he looked around on all of them with anger, because they hardened their hearts against God. Yes, Jesus got angry and he let them know he was angry at them by giving them a mean look that clearly said he was angry. Then he healed the man’s hand.
So the Lord Jesus wasn’t always nice to people and didn’t always walk around saying “Bless you, God loves you, and so do I,” with a smile plastered on his face all the time. But when he put aside his niceness, he did it in love with the goal of pointing people to what God expected of them. He didn’t do it to put others down out of hatred, but because he loved them enough to show them where they were, in relation to where God wanted them to be spiritually. This is the same goal that we as followers of Christ should have. Those who have the notion that Christians are supposed to be nice all the time are placing an unrealistic burden on us that we don’t have to accept. It’s okay for us to get angry sometimes, as long as our anger stems from a righteous indignation about evil and is not an anger that arises out of our sin. It’s great to be able to be nice to people when we can, but sometimes we have to take a stand and say “no more Mr. Nice Guy.” (or Mrs. Nice Girl)
–posted by Harry A. Gaylord–