With the advent of an amoral, ethically apathetic, and increasingly characterless society—which we are now experiencing—we have correspondingly seen an epidemic spread through our land. There is moral disease that is robbing us of convictions, values, and truthfulness. It is draining off our integrity, killing our sense of righteousness, and undermining the proclamation of truth. It is a sickness that rots the very fiber of our being as a nation, as a people. It is nothing less than a plague of NICENESS.
Niceness? Being nice? That’s a moral illness? Yes, indeed. Lest you think I am exaggerating, allow me to cite a few examples that illustrate the gravity of the situation.
Several years ago a couple came into my office at church. Their purpose was to ask me to marry them. However, I had some grave concerns about their relationship. First of all, I had found out that the woman was not legally divorced from her first husband. Second, she had lied to me about a number of issues. Third, I suspected that they were involved sexually. As they both claimed to be Christians (whatever they understood by the term), I felt that I must investigate these matters. So I questioned them.
When it came to the matter of their intimacy level, I asked them pointblank: “Are you having sex?” Their answer was an unashamed, blushless, direct “Yes.” I then said, “Do you not know this is wrong? That it is a sin?” Their answer? Fasten your seatbelts for this one… They knew they were doing wrong. But it was really okay, because every morning they asked God to forgive them. I pressed them, trying to get them to see how wrong their attitudes were, as well as their actions. The woman became enraged that I was so mean as to not accept their lifestyles and their excuses. She stood, told me (and the man), “This conversation is over!” and stormed out of my office.
Later, word got back to me that she felt that “the pastor is not very nice.” Hmmmmm.
Second example. Some time back I heard on the radio about a little girl in Huntington, WV who was mauled to death by a pit bull. Sad story. But perhaps just as sad is the fact that it could have been prevented. This dog had a history of attacking people. It had already seriously bitten at least four other people in the immediate neighborhood. However, none of these incidents had been reported. When one neighbor was asked why the authorities had not been informed about these attacks, he said, “Well, we are all such good neighbors, pretty close and all. We just didn’t want to cause trouble for anyone.” In other words, they were trying to be nice. Oh, how “nice” it was for that poor little girl!
At times we have all been shocked and horrified by what has happened in places devastated by floods, hurricanes or tornadoes. It makes me think of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Our hearts were broken for the people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Yet, as bad as the loss of life, the suffering, and the trauma were to all those poor people in New Orleans and elsewhere, they also had to also endure the shameful abuse of looters, thieves and low-down criminals. I can even remember watching one news story about this terrible situation. A cable news camera crew video taped three men looting a store. The men weren’t embarrassed, ashamed or even afraid. They calmly went through a broken store window, came out loaded down with merchandise, and sauntered down the street as though it were just an ordinary day in the neighborhood. The reporter’s take on the situation? He repeatedly talked about his surprise at how these “gentlemen” were behaving. That was his word: “gentlemen.” My blood pressure shot up immediately. “Gentlemen!!!” Dear Father in heaven, help us! Now thieves, burglars, crooks, and low-life hoodlums are to be referred to as “gentlemen.” Isn’t this the epitome of the disease of niceness? Let’s not offend anyone… even criminals.
Oh, by the way, my heart truly goes out to those who suffer in such situations. It is tragic when people have to do without food, water, shelter or medicine. I often pray that relief will come quickly to them. I give to help out, when I can. But let me say this about such situations. You will have a hard time convincing me that people who are stealing flat screen TV’s and home entertainment centers are doing it out of desperation. I don’t think that crooks who break into people’s homes and take their personal belongings are simply frustrated because of the tragedy of their situation. (I know, this is not a nice thing to say.)
One final example…
I hate the way that the any public figure or politician who stands up for moral integrity and who has personal convictions is characterized as “petty,” “partisan,” or “uncompromising.” Yes, for some this is indeed the case. And yes, there are too many politicians on both sides of the political divide who are purely partisan and act like spoiled children when they don’t get their way. But there are others who are men and women of principle. And when they speak up about their values and beliefs they are castigated. Their offense. They don’t play nice.
Do you see the ravages that this social epidemic is causing in our nation? It is no longer viewed as acceptable to be a person of moral conviction and principled character. To speak out in defense of truth and righteousness is not being “nice.” Horrors. To say that some things are just plain wrong, wicked, or evil is looked upon as being the worst sin possible… the sin of not “playing nice.”
Niceness is a funny thing. It claims to be loving… yet excuses sin, overlooks immorality, and winks at unrighteousness. Is this really loving? Is this showing concern for others?
Out of curiosity I looked it up. Do you know that the word “nice” is not used in the KJV, the New KJV, the NIV, or the NRSV. It is used once, in the NASB, in Jeremiah 12:5. Why the scarcity of “niceness” in the Bible.
Does the Bible enjoin us to be kind, compassionate, gentle, caring? Yes, most truly it does. But nowhere, NOWHERE, does it tell us to be nice. Indeed, many of the great servants of the Lord would be judged as not being very nice by today’s standards. Think about these men:
John the Baptist: “Brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee the wrath to come?” (Matt. 3:7)
Oh no, John, don’t say such things… that’s not nice!
Paul: “Son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10). Oh no, Paul, don’t say such things… that’s not nice!
Jesus: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs… Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matt. 23:27, 33). Oh no, Jesus, don’t say such things… that’s not nice!
Now understand what I mean by this writing. I do not mean that we can excuse rudeness or being ill mannered. I do not mean that we can justify not being kind, patient, longsuffering, gentle, compassionate or tenderhearted. These things are required and obligatory upon Christian people. What I do mean is that we cannot use an attempt at being “nice” as an excuse for not standing by our convictions, speaking the righteous truth when it is needed, standing up for a moral position, or justifying wickedness and overlooking evil. To justify evil and to exonerate wickedness is just as bad as the evil and wickedness itself. See Malachi 2:17 and Isaiah 5:20.