Jesus Didn't Call Us to be 'Nice'

Niceness is not necessarily next to godliness.

I have a problem. I am a people-pleaser.

My desire to make everyone happy came innocently enough. In church we were trained that Jesus was nice to people, a sentiment I had to revisit in my adulthood and found to be skewed at best and erroneous at worst. It turns out that none of the Fruit of the Spirit have anything to do with being a total pushover, but I am one. I have a hard time saying no. I have a hard time being honest. I have a hard time showing emotions besides happiness.

I just ended up becoming a “nice” Christian guy and wondered where I went wrong.

We’re all guilty on some level of being unwilling to be honest with people for fear of hurting their feelings, looking less spiritual or losing a friend. Oftentimes at the expense of our own well being, we overbook, over commit and extend ourselves in the name of being a good Christian. Though we are all certainly called to sacrifice for the greater good, something is radically wrong when the majority of Christians are rushed, tired and living in a fog.

How does this happen?

You get invited to that ugly sweater Christmas party you really would rather not go to, but since your Small Group leader is hosting, you oblige and hope there is at least good food and you get a decent white elephant gift [is there such a thing?]. You get bombarded with text messages from that friend that just can’t get her life together and try to respond with encouragement and love, though you roll your eyes and wonder why you ever gave her your number in the first place and if you’ll get any sleep tonight. You have that friend that loaned you that book he absolutely loved, yet you can’t get past the first chapter because you find it incredibly boring. Yet when he asks you about it you tell him, “Oh! I love it!”

Why do we do this? Because for many of us, we have wrongly believed that being “nice” is akin to being “godly.” We don’t want to ruffle feathers, we don’t want to bend the rules, we don’t want to speak honestly and we don’t want to say no. Why do we do this to ourselves? Because we’re too nice, hiding under the guise of our faith and performing duties that suck the life out of us all because we somehow think this is how God would want us to live.

Yet by examining the life of Jesus, the Son of God, we see that sometimes Jesus did things that were not “nice” yet fulfilled God’s purpose, a much higher calling than people pleasing will ever be.

In the story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead, we see three components of Jesus’ character that can challenge us to live as He lived: Jesus said no. Jesus is honest. Jesus shows emotions besides happiness.

In the story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead, even after hearing the news of his sickness, He waited two days to go visit. His disciples urged him to stay, as a while ago, the Jews tried to stone Jesus in Judea. Yet Jesus said no, not giving into the pressure of others, but keeping pace on accomplishing what God put in His heart to accomplish.

Martha and Mary were both deeply displeased with Jesus waiting so long to arrive, insisting that if Jesus were there, surely their brother would still be alive. But His purpose was not to keep Lazarus alive but to raise Him from the dead, thus showing the power of God. Jesus did not make up a story about getting lost when confronted by Martha but spoke honestly to her that her brother would live again—His purpose for coming.

Finally, when Jesus was in the midst of the family and friends grieving the loss of Lazarus, Jesus did not give a pious or proud rebuke. He did not spiritualize their pain with the phrase “It’s God Will.” He did not put His arm around them and say “everything is going to be OK.” No, as a result of His own troubled spirit in that moment, Jesus wept with those that were weeping, demonstrating his love for Lazarus to all that were gathered.

Many of us cannot say no to people whenever they present an idea different from what we think, even if it is a deep conviction God laid on our heart. Jesus said no, and we should not be afraid to either. Many of us cannot be honest with people, especially if they feel we have let them down. We make excuses or even lie to make ourselves look better instead of speaking honestly with others. Many of us cannot display emotions other than happiness because we think that is the natural posture of the Christian, yet even Jesus wept in a moment of sadness.

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Allowing Jesus to live through you will not necessarily produce “nice” but will undoubtedly produce “godly.” It will not be as pleasant, efficient or even safe, but it will be right and it will create a better follower of Jesus.

One last note: Some may read this article and take the other extreme of people-pleasing and use this information to become a “Jerk for Jesus,” someone who calls people out for everything and anything, someone who speaks “truth in love” but doesn’t have a whole lot of love. Someone who may be pegged as having the “spiritual gift” of discouragement. Please don’t be that person.

Though Jesus certainly is radically different than the people-pleasing Christians many of us find ourselves being at times, Jesus is not a hammer looking to nail every person in sight either. May God grant us discretion, wisdom and tact as we navigate through this life allowing His spirit to conform us to His image more and more each day.

Top Comments

Todd Brannon


Todd Brannon commented…

Shouldn't this really be titled: Jesus Didn't Call Us to be Pushovers? Jesus once warned his disciples to be wise as serpents but gentle as doves. I think this is easier said than done for some personalities but not others. Dispense with socially engineered, mythological norms of the supposed traits of what a Christian should be.

Dámaris Carbaugh


Dámaris Carbaugh commented…

Like I heard Ravi Zacharias say once, "It's never right to be unkind." I truly believe that we can always be kind when we say, "No." And if someone is offended by that "No" and you find yourself wanting to defend your actions, that's when you need to learn to die to self:)


David Randall


David Randall commented…

Certainly Jesus was not always nice to everyone in all cases. It is also unwise not to say "no" when asked to do something we are unqualified or otherwise unable to do. But exactly how does this apply to what we tell a friend who loans us a book he loved, but we find "incredibly boring". Or how we should respond to the needy friend that we think should just "get it together". Or whether we should go to that party in order to support the host, even when we don't particularly feel like it. After telling us the obvious (that there are times to say no), he never comes back to the examples he gives in introducing his topic.

It would seem that every one of these examples do in fact call for us to "do the nice thing", even if it is not "brutally honest" or calls us to do something we don't particularly feel like doing. To effectively make the point we need examples of where not being nice is definitely the wrong thing. It is not enough to simply add a disclaimer not to be a jerk when being "honest" in the examples cited would seem to imply exactly that.

Carlos Rodriguez


Carlos Rodriguez commented…

Jesus wants me happy but he also wants me holy. He wants me happy, but he also wants my wife happy (and sometime the greatest hindrance to her happiness is the pursuit of my own). He did say, “I came to give you a life more abundant”.

Happiness is included, but there is also sacrifice, work, and a whole lot of dying to self.

Amelie Schuh


Amelie Schuh commented…

This is so good.
Why do we not love ourselves as much as others? How are we supposed to give out of overflow if we never take care of ourselves and do what makes us emotionally happy? Because let's remember: apart from Him, we can do NOTHING. Nothing natural, nothing supernatural - nothing.

Thanks so much for this encouragement to not neglect our own needs and desires!

Brittney Switala-HisRadio


Brittney Switala-HisRadio commented…

Jesus was not nice, even though we like to think of him that way.

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