Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Nice Mandate

 (submitted by Kerry Patton)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.   John 13:34, 35
Cutting Against the Grain
Can we just agree that it is not “normal” to be nice?  Now, don’t let me lose you here!  I like to believe that we are all nice people and that it should be normal for us to be nice…and by nice I mean to be loving, kind, considerate, patient, understanding, empathetic, long suffering, selfless…and all of the other qualities that we might sit down and agree that the love and character of our Lord Jesus encompasses. 
I’ll just confess right here – I am none of those things in and of myself.  That isn’t the normal human condition.  In fact, Isaiah 53:6 describes us as sheep: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” Romans 3:23 echoes this by saying: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  
It simply isn’t in the nature of humans to be like God.  Our God is described in 1 John chapter 4 not only as a God who loves, but as a God who IS love.  Simply spoken, we are not like God.  We are…a fallen race.  And yet, we are commanded to love.  We are commanded to be…nice; and not just to people who are nice to us either.  I mean, there is a great deal of logic to that, isn’t there?  I’ll be nice to you, and you’ll be nice to me.  IF, however, you cease to be nice to me, then I will take that as license to no longer be nice to you.  That sounds like a solid covenant to me.  How about you?  But that isn’t the deal we are assigned to operate by.  Oh no. 
The Standard:
God’s plan for being nice is clearly laid out in Matthew 5:43-48:
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
I’d like you to make sure and not get hung up on the last sentence there.  In the original Greek text, the word for perfect in this sentence carries the connotation of being “complete.” As in…lacking nothing.  The mandate we have been given is that we LOVE completely.  We are to be nice…fully, to everyone; friends and enemies alike.  That is the standard.  So, as I encourage you to go out today and every day and “Just be nice…”, I am asking you to raise the bar of how you and I view other people: family, friends, foes, and even absolute strangers…to that standard of how Jesus loves us.  How he in fact loves every individual in the entire world.  It was these whom he came to earth for, whom he lived for, whom he died for, and for whom he was raised from the dead.  And if this is God’s standard for living and loving, who am I as a follower of Jesus to live and love differently?  Today, be nice.  Love your husband.  Love your wife.  Love your family.  Love your boss.  Love that coworker that really annoys you because Jesus loves them.  Love…everyone.  Be. Nice.


Father, cut me against the grain of my humanity.  Separate me from the tendency to live and love only for myself.  Make me your loving agent, fill me with compassion, and grant me the wisdom and ability to accomplish your love in every encounter I make today and every day.  Help me, Father, to be nice.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Devotional Archive