How many times have you heard that "nice guys finish last"? What does this mean to you?
Recently, a book came to my attention from 2005 by Paul Coughlin named No More Christian Nice Guy, and it has opened my eyes to something that has happened to me. Oddly enough, it happens in every Christian church in this and other countries.
Chapter 1 begins with two quotations:
"You must accept that fear is not only harmful, but evil, not only unhelpful but deeply destructive."
- Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
"The ordinary man is passive....Against major events he is as helpless as against the elements. So far from endeavoring to influence the future, he simply lies down and lets things happen to him."
- George Orwell
The average man today is constantly urged to submit and accept the norms of society without any comment or opinion. Those who try to speak up are admonished or ridiculed if they speak out against "norms".
Many are fooled
Of course, you, the "unordinary" he-man of the house, a deacon of your church, and the master of your universe would never be fearful or passive. Yet, churches across the nation are literally filled with men who are expected to act in a way that predisposes them to criticism if they step outside the guidelines provided by mothers, wives, and even pastors. These people admonish nice church men to follow a "sissified" savior who never existed.
What would you say...?
In his book, the author provides some scenarios that we would initially criticize because they are outside the bounds of what we consider socially acceptable. He even sets Jesus up as the one who is performing these unacceptable scenarios, then suggests that we would all be shocked at the behavior and would immediately shut Him down. One example from the book to set the tone for the subject:
"What do you think would happen if Jesus were to appear at your church next Sunday and say to people what he says in the Bible?
And "a brood of vipers fit for hell!"
"Given how nice the church expects Christian men to be, I think we'd rush the pulpit and wrest the microphone from his hand. "Tsk, tsk, tsk," we'd mutter scornfully. We'd wag our fingers, reminding him of the supreme importance placed on manners and appearances in this holy place. Some women, reaching for bars of soap to wash out his mouth, would recite our unofficial church motto: 'If you don't have anything nice to say, Jesus, don't say it at all.' He really should be ashamed of himself."
Again, many of you are sitting there insisting that you wouldn't do anything of the sort. Besides, you say, these statements of Jesus were for the Pharisees and Sadducees. You would say, "He is the Savior, after all."
Are we Christians with our piety so different from the Pharisees? We have our ways and beliefs about what is and is not acceptable to God, and if anyone questions them, we "shout" them down and tell them they are "way off base".
What if this is the first time you had heard Him speak? Or, what if it was another man who spoke? It's not like He cooked this up with the pastor to shock people into listening. Is it so unreasonable that we would shut Him down? At the very least, we would insist that none of the members of our church emulate His actions. And if it was the pastor saying these things, what do you think would happen to the church membership?
Would you ever ignore proof?
Well, have you ever met someone who did not agree with your definition of certain holidays, practices, or churches? Besides me, that is. Of course, you say that you would calmly discuss the issues with that person and give your side of the discussion. Oh, yeah? Why is it that I never get that reaction from anyone? What if you are given some examples from the Bible that appear to be against your side? Would you still discuss, or would you start giving reasons why that must be wrong before the case was finished being stated?
"But, the Bible doesn't say anything about that..."
Then, what if you are asked why you think the other person is wrong, but all you can come up with is something like, "My pastor said..." or "Our church has always believed that..."? What if you have no Biblical evidence for your stand or worse, the Bible evidence denies your belief? If you were the one with the facts that no one else agreed with, you would, at best, be shunned by even your family, and told, "We can't talk about this anymore! It's just too Jewish!". If you believe nothing else on this site, believe me on this. That is the way I am received by almost every person who responds to the ideas on this site.
"OK, if you're gonna be like that..."
Sometimes they are polite about it, but if you take a stand on an issue like pagan celebrations or what is considered food, you become a legalist, "working your way to salvation". You are told that you are breaking the hearts of the ones you love. You are alienating your family and friends. You are turning Jewish (eeeuuuwww...!). "Why can't you just relax and join us for Christmas?" Yep, and no one will discuss it beyond that first attempt to show you the standard, referenceless, response in defense of the very things your stand is against.
So many stands, from the same Book
It would be easy to just become a Christian Nice Guy and give in, but that's not what Jesus did, and we are to act like Him. Do you ever wonder why there are so many different viewpoints on "What would Jesus do?" If you would start checking into the matter and look for the truth on the issue, then good for you. If you reject any contrary evidence outright without further investigation, your stand may benefit from some self-examination. You may just be one of these "Christian nice guys".
This is not to suggest that you should accept every theory that comes along without seeing if it conforms to the word of God, but it seems apparent that many churches are based on acceptance of the "most popular" line of thought without further examination - even with proof to the contrary. They accept the position of general thought because it is the path of least resistance - the Christian Nice Guy position (CNG).
This is the main reason you hear the old saying, "Never discuss religion or politics." The popular stand is , "Don't rock the boat." Why do you think this is? The typical stand is something like, "Well, they can be wrong if they want." No one wants to think about where being wrong about what God wants will lead them.
Again, take a stand
Yet, this CNG stand is the very message the Christians of today try to project to those around them, with little or no discussion even allowed. If someone disagrees with our ideas, or says something that goes against what we think, we tend to criticize, rebuke, ridicule, or otherwise intimidate them based on our own "impeccable" morals and knowledgeable stand - often without even investigating the words of the speaker. We are so indoctrinated by the official church stand, we are "afraid" to speak out. We have the mistaken impression that we should not speak up when we know something is out of sorts because it might hurt someone's feelings. We are told that we need to get everything approved by the pastor or a committee that will sanitize everything so as not to offend anyone.
What if Jesus had held His tongue?
Jesus never subjected Himself to this "pre-approval". His Father had a message and His job was to deliver it. He used the language necessary to deliver that message. See Matthew 12:34
You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?"
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean."
"You unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me."
"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."
, Mark 9:31
because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise."
, Mark 3:21
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."
, and Luke 11:39-40
39 Then the Lord said to him, "You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy - full of greed and wickedness! 40 Fools! Didn't God make the inside as well as the outside?"
for examples of events and messages that are intended to "provoke" us to stand firm and "spur" us to action instead of being passive and "nice". There are messages in the OT (Proverbs 27:5
Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
), and NT (Hebrews 10:24
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
) that remind us to be strong in the message of God. Paul speaks up in 1 Timothy 6:3-4, calling a spade a spade:
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions
Sometimes there is a big difference between being a "good guy", who Jesus is, and being a "nice guy", who Jesus never was.
Speak up when necessary
Where did we ever get the impression that we must "tone it down" instead of speaking the message in truth? Something that might actually cause us to be on the right side of the Second Coming should never be toned down to minimize its significance in order to save someone's feelings. A truth that allows anyone to be on the right side of God's word (think about stands on the Sabbath, Easter, Christmas...), unspoken by us when we know better, puts us on the wrong side of James 4:17:
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them.
If you don't speak up, someone may miss their chance
Or the opposite could happen. If I speak up, someone may show me where I am wrong, and I will be the one who gets the chance to learn. Still think that coarse words are never appropriate? What about Galations 5:12, where Paul was speaking about those newly Christian Jews still requiring circumcision for Gentiles to be in the faith:
As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
Take a stand for the facts, not just the feelings
So, what is the mission here? When you see something you think people are ignoring to their own peril, speak up. There is no reason to be unnecessarily rude about your delivery, but if you see someone about to be hit by a car, knocking them out of the road may be the only way to get them to pay attention in time to be saved from death.
You may be shouted down, but if you have researched the matter, and God is urging to you to speak up - then speak up. If you are wrong, let someone show you that in the Word. If you are not wrong, at least when you stand face to face with the Judge on the "Lord's Day" (not Sunday, by the way), you will not have to answer the question, "Why did you not tell them My truth?" I refuse to answer Him with, "I was afraid I would hurt their feelings and they wouldn't like me any more."
A good example
A final illustration of this idea is a recent movie called Time Changer in which a teacher had written a manuscript positing that as long as we teach people proper morals, there is no need to include Jesus in the discussion. He presented his manuscript to a board of directors and they all agreed with his premise and agreed to endorse his publication - except one member.
That one person tried very hard to convince the teacher to reconsider his premise because it was the wrong way to approach morals, and he claimed that he had a way to prove it. He felt that if you remove the authority of Christ from the moral stand, then that teaching on morals will have little or no effect on society because a teaching without authority is subject to opinion.
This discussion became a heated argument, and the teacher/author flat out refused to be shown this proof because he was certain that his idea was correct. In the end, the author was persuaded to view the proof and was shocked at the conclusion he reached after investigating fully. He rewrote the manuscript and presented it to the board.
If you have not seen this movie, I highly recommend it for all ages. We bought the movie and watch it fairly often because of the provocative concepts and the reality of the real desires of society. I didn't really spoil it for you, as the investigation method was the real eye opener.
The bottom line is that if the convincer had relented to the refusal of the teacher, another committee would have approved a method of teaching morals without getting "religious" about it. The result of this kind of thinking is never effective for advancing morals. But, the convincer had to fight for the truth because he had seen it first hand and knew that future teachings would depend on him and his devotion to the truth, regardless of the cost.
For some reason, this sounds very familiar to me, at least the fighting for truth part...
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