being nice?

I was intrigued by something in Francis Chan’s new book _Multiply_. (By the way, I saw it at Sam’s Club in paperback for under 10 bucks.) Anyway, Chan talks about the gospel affecting our lives (he’s talking about discipleship). It’s kind of like he saying the gospel should make us nicer.

Now being nice is not something I’m widely known for. But I am trying to work on that. Selectively, I admit. But I am aware and I am talking to God about this. Indeed for some of us, sanctification takes longer than others of you. Lewis talked about this in _Mere Christianity_… remember Dick Firkin and Miss Bates? I think it was the chapter “Nice People and New Men”. The point being, some of us have further to go than others of you as far as niceness is concerned.

So I had this dream (yes, I was up at 4, thank you jet lag), it was pretty vivid. I was working at Kroger (did you know I spent 21 years with Kroger?). I was all alone working the checkout line. There was a long line of customers. And this is the thing I remember about this dream, I was just working really hard to be nice to everyone. Unusual.

See, it’s really easy when you’re under great pressure to get frustrated and then to show that frustration by impatience and rudeness. (Like me at the movies the other night.) I think this is our natural inclination… to be abrupt and even rude, it is a reflection of selfishness, of wanting our own way,  what Lewis calls ‘the great sin’… pride.

So next time you’re in my local grocery store (not a Kroger), where there are usually 10 people in each of two lines and the poor cashier is under pressure and therefore not very nice, remember they didn’t make the schedule which put only two cashiers in the store at that time.

Chan suggests that, as the Gospel changes me, if I’m nice to them, they may be nice to the next person and then who knows? This is a very small way that the gospel can influence the culture in that moment and that place. I agree.

See, further back in line, quietly observing, is your neighbor or colleague, who is quietly wondering if the Gospel you are talking to them about is actually real.

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5 Comments

Filed under culture, experience, seeking understanding, Uncategorized

5 responses to “being nice?

  1. Janice

    An excellent post, Tom. Thank you.

  2. Peter

    Very good thought about the effect the Gospel should have on us Christians.. Becoming nicer, becoming the character Jesus was on earth.

  3. Yes, an excellent post. I too have been trying to be ‘nicer’ to folks and it is truly not always easy! For me, there are times it seems forced. It is definitely not my first inclination, and I really hope that it gets easier…. does it? Does it ever become a natural response? Plus, I have found that (for me) it is easier to “be nice” to people I don’t know (like a cashier) than a person that I know or attends my church!

    I, too, am reading Multiply. My small group is doing it together. I also saw the MULTIPLY webcast http://www.multiplymovement.com/.

    Honestly, there are times I even wonder if “the Gospel is real” because of this inward struggle and this tedious, constant effort to be nice and be “Christlike”. I guess I think (or hope) that this “transformation” isn’t just on my own effort but that I’ll look back and see it is God.

  4. Lea Coppage

    I’ve been pondering this for a couple of days, and I’m wondering whether “nice” is another way to name the fruit of the Spirit called “kindness.” If so, we can’t really manufacture it on our own. Kindness is more likely, I think, to pop out of a person who is walking by the Spirit. I also believe that the inward struggle is normal.

    Yesterday I listened to a TED talk about how spending only two minutes in a physically powerful position (“Wonder Woman” stance or arms out in victory, for instance) can change our hormones and therefore attitude. This is like putting on a beautiful mask and having our faces eventually conform to that mask. And I believe that it *has* to be God, because only he can permanently re-form our faces, hearts, and lives.

    So, we press on. Blessings! — Lea

  5. I think the key is understanding that it is the Gospel lived… Lea has the right idea with the fruit of the Spirit, that IS the Gospel working in us and changing us. So, Tory, when you look back and see it is God working in you, you’ve got it.
    We can’t make ourselves anything, only God can really change us… yet I would suggest that we should not take the position that since we are not naturally nice that we shouldn’t try. In _Mere Christianity_ Lewis urges us to live as though we loved until we do love. Perhaps making the effort to be nice to folks we encounter will bless them and then “prime the pump” of our heart’s to let the fruit flow.
    Again, this is harder for some of us (me) than others of you (like our dear Lea). Thanks be to God, we are trusting His work in our hearts. Let’s just not use waiting on Him as an excuse to not be nice when we can. We do have some control over ourselves, don’t we?

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