While I was killing some time in between soccer games this morning (October 6th), the following (re)tweet showed up on my feed:
Jesus didn’t call you to be nice. He called you to be good. There’s a difference. “Holy” and “righteous” aren’t the same as “nice.” @TravelingMead
*20* People had retweeted it.
I sent it to my feed with the comment,
Kind? Tenderhearted? “@TravelingMead: Jesus..called you to be good. There’s a difference. “Holy” and “righteous” aren’t the same as “nice.””
And then, more directly, I replied:
That’s probably one of the most bullshit lines I’ve ever heard about Christianity. Do you write catchy church signs, too?
First of all, I’m pretty sure Pastor Mead’s a godly man. It probably wasn’t entirely fair to him, a complete stranger, for me to treat him this way without at least first offering him a cigar and some bourbon. Over Twitter, he certainly couldn’t see the smile in my eyes or my smirking tongue-in-cheek expression :)
While his tweets were protected (I wasn’t able to find context for the tweet at the time, although his tweets seem to all be public now), he does link his blog to his profile. Check it out.
The problem I had with his tweet is this:
It was written to be some sort of inspirational truth statement to his followers, yet it contains the ridiculous false dichotomy that somehow you can’t be “holy” and “righteous” and “nice” at the same time.
After seeing my not-so-nice (wait, I thought we’re not called to be “nice”?) response,
@DanRevill shot back at me,
@mrsalbrecht I do think the word â€œniceâ€ is an overused saccharine term. I understand what heâ€™s saying, even if his eloquence could use work.
Eh, kinda. The problem is that when Biblical ideas are packaged into catchy phrases (or modern-day translations), they lose their punch. Paul notes this danger in I Corinthians 1:17-30, “…not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.”
The truth is that we can be sincerely nice even if we are in conflict with someone. This isn’t “saccharine”. In fact, it is a form of acting upon our faith to be nice and to treat a believer caught in sin with love — that is a key to restoring the relationship — even if our heart is still hurting and we don’t feel like it.
Not only does Paul tells Euodia and Syntyche to knock it off, he encourages them to behave civilly toward one another for the sake of their church. Their feud was so bad, God allowed it to be recorded for posterity’s sake, and to be a lesson to us. Paul reminds them of their faith and urges them to be nice, even with nitty-gritty instructions on how to think and treat each other. Certainly it was a struggle for them! When we purposefully think and say the best of people and are gentle even when we don’t feel like it, peace is the result…or, at least, it can seriously take power and focus away from the conflict.
Phillippians 4:2-9 “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Admittedly, it is of great irritation to me when Christians flippantly decide to “cut people off” as if it’s some righteous thing to stop associating with people who cause them “stress”. (Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners (see Luke 5:27-32) — yet how many Christians do you know refuse to attend family holiday parties because someone offended them in the past? This isn’t being “good” – avoiding a potential conflict – this is being bitter!) There is a hint of this in Mead’s tweet — because of the false dichotomy. How different would it be if people actually followed Matthew 18, with the goal of RESTORATION to relationships? How different would it be if, instead of the goal of trying to get rid of people by excommunication we took it to the next step and, in treating them as an unbeliever, would pray for them and minister to them?
Peacemaker Ministries, in their foundational principles resource, The Four G’s notes that some people are unreasonable, but that we still need to treat them with LOVE.
Be Prepared for Unreasonable People
Whenever you are responding to conflict, you need to realize that other people may harden their hearts and refuse to be reconciled to you. There are two ways you can prepare for this possibility.
First, remember that God does not measure success in terms of results but in terms of faithful obedience. He knows that you cannot force other people to act in a certain way. Therefore he will not hold you responsible for their actions or for the ultimate outcome of a conflict.
All God expects of you is to obey his revealed will as faithfully as possible (see Rom. 12:18). If you do that, no matter how the conflict turns out, you can walk away with a clear conscience before God, knowing that his appraisal is, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Second, resolve that you will not give up on finding a biblical solution. If a dispute is not easily resolved, you may be tempted to say, “Well, I tried all the biblical principles I know, and they just didn’t work. It looks like I’ll have to handle this another way (meaning, ‘the world’s way’).”
A Christian should never close the Bible. When you try to resolve a conflict but do not see the results you desire, you should seek God even more earnestly through prayer, the study of his Word, and the counsel of his church. As you do so, it is essential to keep your focus on Christ and all that he has already done for you (see Col. 3:1-4). It is also helpful to follow five principles for overcoming evil, which are described in Romans 12:14-21 :
Control your tongue (“Bless those who curse you;” see also Ephesians 4:29)
Seek godly advisors (identify with others and do not become isolated)
Keep doing what is right (see 1 Peter 2:12-15; 1 Peter 3:15-16)
Recognize your limits (instead of retaliating, stay within proper biblical channels)
Use the ultimate weapon: deliberate, focused love (see also John 3:16; Luke 6:27-31)
At the very least, these steps will protect you from being consumed by the acid of your own bitterness and resentment if others continue to oppose you. And in some cases, God may eventually use such actions to bring another person to repentance (see 1 Sam. 24:1-22).
Even if other people persist in doing wrong, you can continue to trust that God is in control and will deal with them in his time (see Psalm 10 and Psalm 37). This kind of patience in the face of suffering is commended by God (see 1 Pet. 2:19) and ultimately results in our good and his glory.
So… there it is. Took me long enough to have a moment to respond!
I am curious to know what Mead was thinking when he wrote his tweet, and how it was that he came to this supposedly biblical conclusion, beyond being catchy and trying to make a point by use of semantics, that we’re not called to be “nice”.
Whether or not he responds, it was therapeutic for me to write this :)
And, in replying to a pastor who posts fart tweets, I don’t feel bad about my use of the word “bullshit”. I think he can handle it :P