The difference between ‘loving’ and ‘nice’

This writer makes an excellent point:

One of the problems with modern Christian culture is the misconception that loving is a synonym for nice.  Jesus is often considered to be a sort of passive non judgmental friend, instead of our Lord, our Master.  …  Nowhere in the Bible is there a rule that a leader can’t correct the one they are leading.  Moreover, Jesus very strongly rebuked the Apostle Peter after Peter failed exactly in the way that Jesus had predicted.  In John 21 we learn about the reunion of Jesus and Peter after the Resurrection.  Peter eagerly dives into the sea and swims to Jesus, but Jesus doesn’t address Peter until after everyone has eaten.  Jesus then repeatedly rebukes Peter, to the point where Peter is absolutely heartbroken…

As Glenn Reynolds (on whose site I found this link) points out: “I am reminded of one of the Narnia books, where it’s pointed out that Aslan isn’t a tame lion.”

Not only does this equation of ‘loving’ with ‘passive niceness’ affect many Christians’ view of God — it also impacts how they believe they should interact with the fallen world around them.  In that world, people go out of their way not to call each other out for failures (this is one reason accountability has become so difficult — the leader who dares hold another to a standard becomes the subject of scorn for being “harsh,” rather than fault accruing to the one who didn’t measure up).  But the message of the Gospel is that we are all literally a hellacious mess, and there is only One way to address that.  Is it any wonder, then, few in this world want to hear what that message truly has to say?  It’s not as if we haven’t been warned of that.  Jesus, by definition, was (and is) the most loving individual ever to walk the face of the earth — and yet what he had to say made the leaders of his day angry enough to kill him!

Today, though, we keep our thoughts (and what we have received from the Spirit) to ourselves, rather than risk giving offense.  This may be ‘nice’ by the world’s standard, but it isn’t loving.  How can remaining silent rather than warning another of danger ever be considered loving?  How much more offended would a person be after a disaster, knowing that others had knowledge that could have spared them, but refused to share it?

The message is a stumbling block, and we should be aware of our own tendencies that can make it even harder to consider.  But so long as we are speaking out of love — out of genuine concern for those around us (and not just public posturing), we should be as bold… and blunt… as our Master was in confronting the root cause of all the world’s dangers and disappointments: sin, and the refusal to confront and repent of it.  For repentance to occur, the same heartbreak Christ brought to Peter must occur — a sorrow so deep that the soul cries out to God for relief.

Rather than bear that, though, most of the world would rather channel the surge of emotion that conviction can bring into hatred for the messenger, for failing to be ‘nice.’

Even so, we ‘ought to obey God, rather than men.’

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