Posts by Todd Pearson

Jesus is not Your Husband

You’ve Got to be Kidding Me

Toward the end of the 12th century Roman Catholic nuns began to wear wedding bands to symbolize a couple of things.  One being their fidelity to “The Church” and the other, their roles as Christ’s brides. While I do take exception to several Roman Catholic theological positions, this one practice may be the single most infuriating to me. Let me explain why. Jesus is a lot of things. Redeemer. Savior. Messiah. The Christ. The Holy one of Israel. Seed of Abraham. Jesus is the Root of Jesse and the Prince of Peace. Jesus is Wonderful Counselor and Jesus is GOD. BUT, Jesus is not your husband.

In recent years it has become the fad for single women, young and old alike, to refer to Jesus as their husband. I have actually interacted with widows who tell me that now that their husband is gone Jesus has replaced him. Even worse, I have interacted with young career-minded evangelical women who believe that Jesus fulfills the role of husband for them as they pursue their life goals. You’ve got to be kidding me; right? There is no way I believe that sound Christians can believe this.

Christ is the Bridegroom but Jesus is not YOUR Husband

Because of the Scriptures we must wrestle with the language that God uses to describe Jesus. He certainly is described as the Bridegroom. Moreover, there is a beautiful image painted of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. In this picture we see the heavenly celebration of the fulfillment of the Bride (the church) being given to the Bridegroom. And as obvious as this may seem to us, that unity isn’t meant to be understood in the light of earthly marriage. Instead, earthly marriage is meant to be understood in light of this heavenly marriage imagery. Marriage is meant to teach us about how Christ loves the Church.

Jesus is the Bridegroom and as such He has one Bride. That Bride is God’s called out or chosen ones. The Ekklesia. Jesus is not wedded to each individual in the Church. Instead, Jesus is wed to the Church, solely.

When we erroneously allow women to refer to Jesus as their husband, we are allowing a form of mysticism to circumvent proper doctrinal understanding. This perspective is actually gynocentric and excludes men from the picture. If we were to replace women with men in the above-mentioned scenarios the imagery would take on a disgusting tone. Imagine a group of men sitting around lilting on about how Jesus is their husband. We would be outraged. So, we should be equally outraged when we hear people demean Christ by twisting His role as the Bridegroom and applying it individually, to women.

Jesus is not Coming Back for Women

Furthermore, Jesus is not coming back for men either. Jesus is coming back for His people. You were ready to jump on me for being a misogynist, weren’t you? That is fine, you can admit it. I wrote that sub-heading out like that on purpose.

The beautiful thing about the Gospel is that it isn’t about men and women and their individual worth. The Gospel is about the message of redemption for all people no matter their gender or place in society. While there are certainly specific roles given to men and women in the context of the Church, Jesus is not interested in saving one over the other.

When Jesus comes back at the end of the age, He is coming for His Bride. It will not matter who they are or where they are from. He will not pay mind to whether they were Old Testament Saints or New Testament Saints. He will simply call them to Himself.

The Sickening Sweetness of Jesus as Husband

Current Christian culture is littered with music and teaching that shows Jesus in almost romantic or erotic relationship with believers. All you need do is listen to what passes for CCM. Often it is hard to tell if we are hearing worship songs or sanitized love songs between partners.

Many modern theologians over-indulge the eroticism of the society that they live in and speak of God in such terms. Worse still is the emphasis on The Song of Solomon as a way to understand Jesus as He relates to the Church. There is certainly something to be learned from the Song of Songs. But should we apply the overtly sensual language of husband and wife to Thee Bridegroom and Thee Bride? No!

There is a cloying sickening sweetness in how Western Church approaches our Lord and Savior. This overtly emotional approach has its roots in many degradations on the view of Christ and His deity. Jesus certainly does sit at the right hand of the Father now as both God and Man, but He is not like us in any way. Authors like William Young (The Shack) have lowered Christ to a buddy-like position. Movements like the Shakers (thoroughly a-Christian) have made Jesus an emotional experience instead of the God-Man.

All of this lends itself to the Jesus as husband/boyfriend approach we see today. Sadly, due to the view that Western Culture has of marriage today, we see thousands of women divorcing Jesus when He no longer meets their felt needs.

Consider for a moment the implications of a doctrine that teaches that Jesus is the groom of the unmarried or widowed women of the Church. Does a young lady need to divorce Jesus to get married when an acceptable suitor comes along? Does Jesus practice polygamy?

Jesus is Your Lord

Jesus is your Lord! Is there anything more I need to say?

Let’s be honest with one another here. It is easier to stomach Jesus as husband in the current egalitarian feminist culture of the Church than embrace Him as Lord. The role and description of husbands today is built firmly on a worldview that treats husbands as the servant and magic genie for the family, especially the wife. Thus, women today approach Jesus the same way.

No one will shy away from a soft and tender Jesus who is calling sweetly to them to walk in the garden with Him. But a biblically understood Jesus who is Lord and rightfully commands the Bride He purchased with His own blood makes us uncomfortable. He seems overbearing and kinda bossy when we compare the two.

Consequently, we have to understand Jesus according to the context and culture of the Bible and not according to our modern presuppositions. When we do this, we will obey Him and recognize our role as individuals making up the One Bride.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

Severed for Us

How did We get Here?

Years ago, maybe 200 or so, Christians began to walk away from scriptural depth in favor of emotional interpretation. Critical and logical thinking were severed from the average Christian’s approach to Holy Writ. While I have waxed on about shallow emotionalism in the past, this is not what I am writing about today. Furthermore, I am not going to be writing about logic and critical thought as they relate to evangelism.

Instead, I am going to be speaking about a topic we often read and hear about, but rarely see handled well in broader Christian culture. In Matthew 27 Jesus cried out “Eli Eli Lama sabachthani!” Meaning “My God my God why have you forsaken me…?”

What was Jesus saying here? More importantly, what did it mean and what were the implications?

A Common Misconception

The understanding I hear most often about this phrase is emotionally powerful. It goes something like this:
“When Jesus was on the cross crying out ‘my God why have you forsaken me’ He was sad. You see the Father could not bear to see the Son in such suffering and pain. So, the Father had to turn away from what He was seeing, and Jesus could feel that.”

This seems so right when we compare it to what we consider healthy father and son relationships in the world. What human father, in his right mind, would not turn away from the excruciating imagery of his son being crucified? But, is this what was taking place in that moment?

The Wreckage of Christianity: When Intellect is Severed from Teaching

Perhaps the greatest damage done with this common misconception is that it has resulted in emotional appeals to sinners. When we deal with God in such a way, we have severed intellect from emotion. Instead of appealing to both the rational and emotional side of the being we err in favor of the emotion.

The well-intentioned person presenting Christ on the cross and the Father in heaven, in such a way, is hoping to manipulate the hearer. While God is sympathetic towards us in some respects, He is not in need of our sympathy. Additionally, when the God-head is presented in such a way, it effectively lowers God to the same station as man. It paints God in a light where He appears weak and as moved by emotion as His creatures seem to be. His impassibility is effectively severed from His Being.

However, this is not what we are taught. In Hebrews 4 we are reminded that Jesus, sympathizes with us. Conversely, we are never taught that we are to show sympathy to God. Moreover, there is no reason for us to do so.

Thus, it is vitally important for us to teach this passage properly. If we fail to do so we show disdain for the God-head and make a wreck of the faith. Instead of teaching disciples what the transcendent God has revealed of Himself, we teach them to view God through the lens of human frailty. Instead of God condescending to us, we condescend to Him.

What was Truly Taking Place in That Moment?

In that moment, where Jesus is quoting from Psalm 22, there is something truly profound happening, but it isn’t rooted in the emotional anguish of God. Instead, it is rooted in the covenant keeping God who promised the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the earth.

In the Protoevangelium of Genesis 3 God promises to send a redeemer through the seed of the woman. Then throughout all of the Old Testament, He reminds us of that promise in varied ways. Nowhere in the Old Testament is this more evident than in Isaiah 53, where we are taught that it pleased God to crush Him.

What could this mean, especially in light of the Matthew 27 passage and the way that verse is understood today? Are we to understand that God was in mourning over the sons suffering and pain? Not hardly. Especially when we know it is God that is doing the crushing in that moment.

So, if we take a look at 2 Corinthians 5:21 we see an explanation of the reality of the cross. God the Father made God the Son to become sin for us. In a deeply profound way, God the Son was made to become the very thing that the God-head hates. Sin. God hates sin, we all know that. According to Habakkuk 1, He cannot even look upon sin. It cannot dwell in His presence.

We must wrap our minds around this from a doctrinal perspective. The Father made the Son become the very thing that severed the favorable relationship between Him and our first parents.  This is not some light, passé occurrence. It is profoundly important to our understanding of what God did for the sake of His own glory.

A Severed God-head?

No, that is not what I am saying.

The triune nature of God is pre-existent. God always was and always will be triune. While the word Trinity does not appear anywhere in either the old or new testament, the Trinity is still there. In Genesis, the record of the beginning of creation, the God-head says, “Let US make man in OUR image.” Moses was thoroughly a Hebrew, yet, there he is recording a trinitarian conversation about the creation of man.

Unlike so many today who believe that man was created to fellowship with God, we need to recognize the perfect communion of the God-head. Father, Son and Holy Spirit had perfect fellowship untainted by need or lack. God did not create man to fill in the missing puzzle piece in His relationship.

If anything, the creation of man eventually led to the one thing that should be unimaginable to believers. What is that one thing? A severing of the FAVORABLE relationship in the God-head. In the garden as Christ is languishing in prayer, conversing with the Father and the Spirit, He is pleading that the cup of the Father’s wrath be allowed to pass from Him.

Finally, while on the cross, in that moment of utter and brutal human transparency, Jesus shouted out in pain and suffering as the eternal perfect favorable communion of the Trinity was severed. Dwell on that if you can. For the first, and only time, God the Father in His wrath and hatred for sin, turns His back on God the Son and the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit flees from the Christ.

A Brief Explanation

The Son is left utterly alone, shunned for being and bearing the very thing that God hates. Bearing not only the severed favorable communion but the wrath of hell. Utterly alone! This does not mean that the communion of the God-head was destroyed or ruined. Nor is it meant to communicate that the nature of the God-head was changed. The Trinity was perfectly intake if you will. But Christ, had to bear our hell. The brunt of that hell is the outpouring of the wrath of the Father on sinners.

In no way was the Father ever displeased with the Son. Yet, the perfect unmitigated wrath of the Father was being poured out on Christ in those moments. Without this reality we have no penal substitutionary atonement. We have not propitiation. Christ had to experience all that the unrepentant experience or it would not be a sufficient sacrifice for sin and sinners.

Severed for Us so We Will Not be Severed from Him

The staggering reality, and this will be brief, is that in the Great Exchange, it is more than sin and righteousness being exchanged. While on the cross Christ also endured the suffering of a severed favorable relationship on our behalf.

I would posit, that as unimaginably horrid it would have been for Him to endure our hell, it would have been exponentially more horrific for Him to experience the severed favorable relationship. In an essay I wrote several months back I covered the topic of the relationship over religion motif. In that piece I explored what I think of as error in modern thought. That errant thinking compels the world to seek relationship more than religious practice. In my feeble ramblings I posited that all people have a relationship with God. Either favorable or unfavorable.

The unregenerate sinner hates God and takes pleasure in the unfavorable nature of that relationship. However, they still live under the mercy of God. They experience His beneficence. Christ, however, suffered the full weight of God’s wrath for sins that He did not commit while utterly severed from the favorable communion He had always known. Instead, He did what we cannot imagine. He remained in communion with the Father and the Spirit but knew the wrath without the mercy.

This should drive us to our knees in worshipful tears…

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

How Often? When is Enough too Much?

So How Often Should We Preach the Gospel

It seems relatively safe to assume that we determine how often we preach the Gospel by looking to the source of the written Gospel message. That being the Bible. From there, we look at the examples and commands. As I have stated before, The Great Commission is more than just a suggestion. It is a command.

Explicitly included in that command is the very parameter for how often we are to be about the work of Gospel Advancement. So, what did Jesus tells us in that command? He said, “Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to all…” As many evangelistically minded folks have reminded us, go means go. Furthermore, it is a demonstrable action. It is the very epitome of obedience to our Lord and Savior. I posit to you that it was this very command that Paul had in mind when he penned Romans 10:14-15. I will grant you that Paul did quote from Isaiah in the following verses. But the very words of Christ had to be a driving force here.

So, my answer to the question, “How often are we to preach the Gospel?” is, “All the time.”

Consequently, this is now the shortest essay I have ever written…

You Didn’t Really Think I was Done, did You?

One of the most common questions I receive from fellow Christians flows from struggles with frequency.

“Todd, when do I know I have preached the Gospel enough?” or “How often? And when is it time to stop?”

While I do not believe that evangelism is a gift that only some people are given, I do agree that some more geared towards being active. What I believe is the root cause of the question of how often is more about how do I know I have been obedient? I have met and know some folks that believe they are being sinful if they do not carry Gospel tracts with them everywhere, they go. Some will go even further and tell others that if they are not handing out tracts or sharing the Gospel with everyone around them, they are being disobedient.

When you juxtapose the heavy-handed nature of such people with the timid nature of the non-evangelizing majority of (ironically) Evangelicalism, you have a perfect storm of legalism and license. Last year I published an essay on my own forays into that level of legalism. In that essay, “My Confession”, I offered an apology for how hard I used to be on people who didn’t meet my standards for frequency.

Nonetheless, I stand by the assertion that every Christian should be preaching the Gospel. Frequency will be dictated by personality and opportunity.

Speaking Individually, How Often and When Is Enough Too Much?

I will never try to establish a hard and fast rule here. For me, I will take every presented opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to people I know are lost. Especially if my interactions with them are rare or few and far between. How often is really just a judgement call. I do not agree with those people I know that think every person you meet or bump into needs you to proclaim the Gospel to them.

Conversely, I will continue to assert that every person you meet needs to hear the Gospel. But you may not be the vessel for the message in that individual’s life. I would also argue that there comes a time when enough is enough. It is less an issue of how often and more an issue of “have you?”.

Some Simple Examples

Consider the Christian parent with children at home. The younger those children are the more they need to hear the Gospel. Every day numerous times! But not in the over-bearing way I did when my children were young.

Or consider the parent with adult children. How often does that parent need to bring the Gospel to bear on their adult child? Or better consider if that adult child grew up in a believing home. Does the parent need to proclaim the Gospel to the child every time they together? I would say no.

How often do we need to proclaim the Gospel to our co-workers or neighbors? Surely, when the chance arises, we should respond. But is it needful to manufacture those moments?

When it comes to the question of when enough is too much I would tread carefully. This is not something I have always managed well. Being human the better part of me is not always on the forefront. As I wrote about in my essay about angry responses, there will be hostile reactions. However, discretion being the better part of valor, it isn’t wrong to stop once you have preached the Gospel. Jesus advocated for walking away.

Alternatively, I do not believe that a person who is truly proclaiming the Gospel can drive an unbeliever away from God. This is one of the most frequent accusations I hear when I am open air preaching. “It’s people like you who give Christians and Jesus a bad name!” (See the video I linked to just above.) I will admit that I am certainly a poor representative of Christianity. That being confessed, I cannot make a God-hating unbeliever hate God any more than they do. In these cases, we need to trust the Holy Spirit to help us know how often and when enough is too much.

In Conclusion

Brevity being the better part of wit I am keeping this short. That and Kevin Jandt told me I am a windbag (not really but it is more fun to say it that way.) As with any spiritual discipline and precept, there are parameters and guidelines.

We owe our employer their time. Therefore, work hard and well. Men need to lead their families.

Consequently, a dad who is always out witnessing is likely to fail to disciple his family.

A mother that is constantly harping on her children about their sin and then “preaching the Gospel” is more likely to drive her children away from her home than drawing them into loving intimacy.

My dear friends and my reader(s), please, preach the Gospel. Front Load it into your relationships. Proclaim Christ crucified. And then leave it in God’s hands to save.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

You are More Than What You Do

Where This is Coming From

Some time ago I wrote an article about relational evangelism where I began to unpack my favorite term, Front-loading the Gospel. In that article I spoke about the reality wherein modern people identify with their occupation more than anything else. I explained that Christians need to experience a paradigm shift of sorts and begin to introduce themselves as Christians. My emphasis was on bringing the Gospel to bear on neighbors and strangers. With this essay I want to expand on that thought a bit. In the end I want you to dwell in the truth that you are more than what you do.

As hard as it is for us to fathom, we are not our jobs or our careers. More importantly, those things are meaningless for the Christian if that person isn’t bringing that “identity” into submission to God through the Gospel.

You are More Than Your Location

One of the greatest areas of pride for Americans, well frankly almost all people really, is their place of origin. However, this is predominantly problematic in the USA. We label ourselves according to our ancestry. We label ourselves according to the states and even the cities we were born in.

Often, many will even take pride in where they live now over where they are from. I have literally met hundreds of people in my adult life that look down their noses at us Midwestern folk. Apparently, we have no culture compared to people from the two left coasts. As a resident of Minnesota, I can attest to two things. We have culture, and there is no such thing as the “Minnesota Nice” that Minnesotans pride themselves on.

Yet, Paul really despises this form of secularism and it shows in Galatians 3: 23-29. In fact, what Paul lays out is that being identified with Christ makes us descendants of Abraham. If anything, our location and our ethnic heritage are of no consequence in the eyes of God. We are all now in Christ and those things have passed away.

When we continue to take pride in our ethnic origins or geographical location after our redemption as sons and daughters, we are telling the world that those things are more important than being identified with Christ. My Christian friends you are more than your location. Far more!

You are More Than Your Glory Years

Not that any believer really believes that they have glory years. But there is a little of Al Bundy in all of us. We are constantly referring to the distant past where we accomplished some amazing feat. I am over thirty years removed from breaking the five-minute mark in the 1600/mile in track. I bet it comes up in conversation at least three times a year. But why? What compels me to bring it up even that often? Who am I trying to impress and for what reason? Honestly, the feat isn’t even all that impressive compared to others.

Even still, how many of us allow these thoughts to permeate our thinking? Strangely enough, many of us forget who we were before Christ when it comes to our sins. We have no problem talking about the great things we did or accomplished but rarely will we tell others about how sinful we were or about the depths of our depravity. I am not calling for a morbid introspection that always ends in gushing confession. What I am talking about is the lack of transparency many Christians seem to embrace.

I am not big on testimonial witnessing. You know that method wherein you try and preach the Gospel from your life. It certainly has its place in context of evangelism directed towards those who knew us before. But it serves little to no purpose when trying to relate to complete strangers who know nothing about us. Just as I am wont to tell my new neighbor about how horrible I was when it comes to the context of sexual depravity, what purpose would it serve to “brag about past accomplishments”? None. I really don’t have glory days. Consider Paul’s words in Philippians 3. You are more than your glory years.

Does Your Career Communicate Your Worth?

This is something that we all need to think about. Strangely enough one would think that the Christian worldview would answer the question readily. But it seems there has been struggle in this regard for centuries. From the early days of the Church it seems that cultural influences were hard to shake from the thought process. James addressed sinful partiality in his epistle. He made it clear that the wealthy should not be given seats of favor in the church.

Often the idea of career or occupation has stepped in to fill the void of wealthy opulence that James was addressing in chapter two of his epistle. Today, doctors and lawyers and CEOs and politicians take seats of prominence in many congregations. Even more partiality is shown to the celebrities who profess Christ. But does the career of the person or their wealth and popularity make them indispensable to the Church?Hardly.

Sometimes, those positions can serve as a stumbling block to some. Moreover, how do we view the laborers in the midst of the congregation? Are carpenters and bricklayers or garbage men as valued by the entire body as anyone else? What of the woman striving for Titus 2 living?

We could go on and on with this thought process. But we cannot err only on the side of checking our attitudes when it comes to the wealthy and prominent. Today, sinful partiality is often shown to the destitute and unwanted in society. Where many congregations once wanted nothing to do with the unwashed masses of the world, today the rage is to show how sensitive we are to the oppressed by rejecting the wealthy brothers. Even the idea of wealth is now considered sinful by many.

You are more than your career. Far more!

Addressing the Context of 1 Corinthians 11:17-22

There is a tendency to ignore the context of this passage and move straight to the sacrament of communion. This passage says as much to us about partiality as does James 2. Many biblical scholars and theologians believe that as the poor Christians worked and labored the rich slave owners of the church gathered and turned the Lord’s table into a party. By the time the laborers and more agrarian types were able to join in, the food and drink were depleted, if not gone.

This passage was a harsh rebuke from Paul. And it is one that we seem to think we are immune from today because we do not gather for the Lord’s table the same way that they did then. But here is my thought. Do we stay in preferred comfort zones when we do gather together? Do we look to only interact with people of a certain caliber and quality? What of our outside/secular interests? Do we look only for like-minded folks to associate with when meeting with the body? Are we telling others, “You are more or less insignificant to me…” based on how we interact with them when gathered as the local body?

You are More Than Hobbies and Past-times

Often, we relate to one another based on our extra-curricular activities. Hunting, fishing, golfing, arts and crafts and on and on. Consequently, we build special interest groups within the WCC geared towards leading people of like interest together. Unfortunately, when this happens, that orbit starts to absorb people from outside of the Christian worldview.

On the face this seems like a good thing. What concerns me is that as with everything, we become more identified by our hobbies and interests than by our faith in Christ. It was often said that Spurgeon would talk affectionately of his predecessor John Bunyan. His most famous gushing about Bunyan was this, “If you cut him, he’d bleed Scripture (bibline).” So, what does this have to do with hobbies and past-times? I ask you, “are you more well-known for how you invest your time and money into hobbies than you are for how much you talk about Christ?”

I am not dismissing a healthy place for activities that are not specifically “Christian”. If you are a snowmobiler, by-all-means have a blast during the winter. However, is everything you talk about centered around that? If you need to be catered too in your hobbies and past-times to be able to maintain your interest, is it possible that you have an idol?

Instead, let us consider how our past-times and hobbies can be shaped and fitted to be tools used for the Glory of God. Sure, it may seem hard to imagine a way in which the person that is passionate about Underwater Basket Weaving can do it for the Glory of God, but all things right? I mean really? But after all, you are more than your hobbies.

You are More Than Your Career

We home-educate(d) our children. A common question that we are often faced with centers around the careers they are pursuing and the schooling options they are looking at. “So, what are you going to go to college for?” “What do you want to study? Is there something you are good at?”

I understand why these questions arise. They flow from a modern mindset that says education has only been a success if a student/graduate is on a career track that will net them a high-paying job in their preferred career choice. You are more likely to be guided toward college/university than you would be a trade. And, no one is ever guided into the world of retail or “menial” labor.

Even in the world of Evangelicalism there is a drive toward higher education for the purpose of a career track. Young men are constantly driven towards the pastorate in many churches. Nowhere is this more common than in Fundamentalism. I lived in that world for some time. I saw the push often. No thought is given to whether a young man is being called by God to pastor. They are just pointed in that direction and set “on mission”.

Sadly, the idea that you are more than your career is met with soft hostility and derision. When is the last time that you met a parent that joyfully announced that their child has chosen to become a “garbage man”? If this did happen more than likely it would be changed to “mobile sanitary disposal specialist”.

But where is the worth and value of a person found? Why do we spend so much time obsessing over careers or the directions our children decide to go? Short of choosing a life of crime, you are more than your career…

Your Identity is in Christ!

Paul said something simply profound and utterly beautiful in 1 Corinthians 15. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then those of us who believe He did are the most to be pitied. This is where we find our identity.

If you are trusting in Christ as your savior! If you are an adopted child of God! Then you are more than anything else that identifies you. Remember that Paul calls all these things trash (skubalon) when compared to the surpassing value of Christ.

God warns us about trusting in earthly strength and power and the trappings of success. I would suggest that you are more interested in identifying in your career or hobbies or place of residence or any other earthly identity, you have lost sight of your identity in God.

I will go a step further. As all of mankind is made Imago Dei, they too are more than what they perceive themselves to be. While the lost cannot be identified with Christ, they are still Imago Dei. As Image Bearers of the God they should be compelled to find their worth in even that marred image.

It is this that should compel us to become so Christo-centric that instead of identifying with what we do, we identify what we do with Christ. I believe that this in turn will point us outward toward the others who do not know Christ and propel us toward Gospel Advancement. Bringing the Gospel to bear on our fellow Imago Dei will result in a change in mindset and worldview that will be to the benefit of all mankind. But more importantly it will bring Glory to God!

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

You are Going to Hell is Often the Kindest Thing to Say

You Are Going to be Confused

You are going to be confused here for a little bit. In a day and age where the greatest of all Christian virtues is “Being Nice” I am going to push back a little against that. Furthermore, I am going to compel us away from being nice and turn us instead toward being kind. From there, I am going to define kind biblically.

This topic has been on my mind quite a bit as of late. Apparently, it has been on the mind of others because it has been popping up in numerous podcasts lately. So, I want to ask, does the bible compel us to be nice? Is there a command that says, “Go ye therefore and be nice to all people?” And this is where you are going to get confused; my argument is that the bible never compels us toward niceness. In fact, the loving acts of kindness that we are compelled toward are going to seem incredibly not nice in the eye of the world and Western Christian Culture.

So, strap in and bear with me. I think you are going to enjoy this ride.

The Historicity of Nice

Nice isn’t simply a city in France, but the historical root of the word nice sure does have a lot to do with how we view France today. Here is what I mean.

While we are not entitled to completely detach a word from its current usage, we can certainly learn quite a bit about the current word from its evolution. Nice comes from the Latin word nescius. Nescius means to be “unaware, ignorant”. Apparently, the French eventually “loaned” the word to the English where it was used to characterize a person that was seen as stupid, or ignorant or foolish.

The word morphed over time somewhere in the late 1300s. It was being used to describe someone or something that was considered excessively luxurious or lascivious. Both the original meaning and the first mutation of it lean heavily on the idea of uselessness. However, over time it mutated again to mean someone that was scrupulous or precise and fussy.

Eventually, we arrived at the current permutation of the word. Now to be nice is to be malleable or easy going. So, a nice person is easily formed or shaped into the image that those around them want them to have. This is the context of the word today. Therefore, when those in WCC call on us to “be nice”, they are calling us away from properly understood biblical standards.

We are not to be conformed to the image of the world but to the image of Christ. And Christ was far from nice.

You Might Argue with me Now

It would be so easy to list all the arguments you are going to attempt to use to disprove me. “But Jesus said this, and Jesus did that.” Some will even remind me that we are taught that as much as it is possible, we should be at peace with all men.

Consequently, the settled conclusion for most people is that we are to be nice. Nice at all costs. Moreover, this conclusion flows from the fallacious idea that Jesus was nice. But, and I know I am standing on culturally thin ice here, my contention is that Jesus wasn’t nice. He wasn’t pliable and easily shaped and formed.

In fact, I would assert that He was nowhere near nice. No matter which permutation of nice you use. Jesus was not ignorant or unaware. He definitely wasn’t lascivious or luxurious. And he wasn’t calling His disciples to be any of those things.

Make no mistake, I am familiar with the arguments from the other direction as well. Do you remember the old acronym WWJD? What would Jesus Do? If you are at all aware of this cultural argument you know that one of the answers that floats around is, “Well flipping tables and whipping people is an option!” While this is true, it isn’t my go-to. I am not interested in playing one-upmanship.

I am arguing for kindness, not a contemporary Christian equivalence of temple cleansing. Even if there is a place for it these days. (And there is!)

You are Going to Need to Take a Position

The Scriptures tell us that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. This is a powerful truth that cannot be avoided. And still, many in WCC seem to do their best to do that. But what we need to remember about the context of that verse is that it comes immediately after Romans 1. Romans 1 was Paul’s eloquent dissertation on sin and damnation and God’s Just Judgement of unrepentant sinners. Romans 1 sets us up for the truth bomb in chapter 2.

If we sit back and declaratively condemn someone for doing the same things we are doing; we have already condemned ourselves. It is the very epitome of pride to think that way. Worse yet, it shows that we have forgotten how powerful God truly is. It is He who has drawn us to repentance. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon explains kindness this way:

Benignity or kindness stemming from the word chrestos. It carries with it the idea of moral excellence of character along with gentleness and goodness.

This word is used ten times in the NT. That is ten times more than you will find the word nice.

So, why would I say you are going to need to take a position? I mean to say that you have to come down on one side or the other of this conversation. This is a debate that needs to be had. If we continue to foist that falsity of niceness onto the Church, especially the men of the church, we are going to need to abandon Gospel preaching.

The way to understand the moral goodness of God and how that gentleness leads people to repentance is through the lens of the rebuke that precedes it. Again, you are going to need to take a position.

You are Going to Hell is a Kind Warning

UNTRUE!

I know this seems counterintuitive. I get it. But bear with me if you would. The world is a fickle place that loves to coddle sinners in their sin and rebuke Christians for being truthful. The truth of Christian thought is seen as harsh and hateful in the eyes of those who are fleeing from God’s Just Judgement of sin.

However, as with any warning, there is a starkness to it because of impending danger. There is a reason that there are signs warning about dogs being on a premise. But homes with pet rabbits don’t warn you before you enter. One can kill you while the other may cute you to death.

This is the nature of the God of all Creation. He is not only loving, He is Wrathful. He hates sin and will judge those who refuse to repent of their wicked ways. Subsequent to that truth, is the truth of the kindness of God that calls the wicked to flee from the wrath to come. To accomplish that calling God has ordained His Church, the very Bride of Christ, to preach the Gospel. But the good news isn’t good without the kindness of warning others about the hell that awaits them.

Jesus told us that to love God with every fiber of our being is the greatest command and that to love neighbor as self is the second greatest. Yet few today put teeth into that truth. For the Christ-follower, loving neighbor as self penultimately means recognizing their wickedness and warning them to turn to Christ instead. Likewise, in Matthew 5, Jesus said that the peacemakers amongst us are blessed. However, make no mistake, peacemakers are not “nice”. Contrary to modern thought, being a peacemaker means ruffling feathers on overly comfortable birds…

If You Want to be a Peacemaker You will Upset People

Even now you are saying, “But Todd, that isn’t nice.” Well. Maybe you caught yourself and rephrased it to, “That isn’t kind.” But either way, we have a model to follow. Jesus was literally the kindest of all humanity. But he wasn’t nice. Nice people, dare I say men, don’t rock the boat or upset the apple cart. Nice people are the get-along-to-go-along types. They mold and shape themselves after the image of the society they find themselves in.

Yet, was that who Jesus was? I offer no as my answer. When we consider Jesus in John 6, He said some hard-hitting things that upset some people. So-much-so they turned and walked away. Many of them never walking with Him again. But wait, Scripture calls Jesus the Prince of Peace. Wonderful Counselor! How can the very Prince of Peace so willingly upset those that had been following Him? Because He is the same God that inspired Paul to write, “speak the truth in love.”

Sometimes loves says hard things. I think we have forgotten that. There is no more loving thing to do then to compassionately correct an errant brother or sister. The most self-sacrificial act that a Christian can partake in is risking the friendship of another by warning them that they are outside of God’s favor.

The first goal of a peacemaker is to proclaim the Gospel to bring peace between God and men. Afterward, the peacemaker works to be an intermediary between fellow believers. This is seen in the model of Matthew 18 and Colossians 6. The sinning party is met by love and kindness and moved to repentance. We see it profoundly worked out in Philemon when Paul compels Philemon to forgive Onesimus.

This is biblical kindness rooted in Gospel focused truth.

If You are Going to be Nice You Can’t be Christlike

I hope that this has moved you to consider how society or culture defines what it means to be nice and what it means to be kind. Biblically speaking we are called to be molded into the image of the Son. This means that we are to seek after and strive for His character and moral appearance. When this pursuit of the holiness of God is our goal, it equips us to do the hard things that Scripture compels us to.

The more we pursue sanctification the more natural it will be for us to warn people that they are going to hell apart from Christ. This doesn’t make saying, “You are going to hell…” easy or enjoyable at all. It simply means that we have submitted ourselves to our Lord and are willing to do what He has modeled for us.

If you are going to be worried about your reputation or about being labeled a “nice guy” you are going to hold back on essential truths. Instead, seek to be labeled Christlike. Strive after the high and holy calling to be labeled as being of a different world.

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd

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