“You’re so nice!” I cringe inside when I hear these words. While I understand—and appreciate—the affirmation and compliment, “nice” is not my target. From a Biblical perspective, nice is not a virtue we are encouraged to pursue. In my New American Standard Bible, “nice” appears once, at the end of Jeremiah 12:6: “Do not believe them, although they may say nice things to you.” In this passage, Jeremiah is warning the people of Israel to beware of manipulative flattery. And manipulation and flattery are often packaged in niceness. But even without negative intent or connotation, nice is superficial. Nice is often used as a substitute for depth and caring in the context of relationship. And in our rushed, performance-oriented culture, it is easy to settle for nice—on both the giving and receiving ends.
I believe that there is a good reason that Scripture does not promote “nice.” God does not manipulate. He proved this when He shared His free will with us in creation. And God is most definitely not interested in superficiality. Please consider Jesus’s interaction with the woman who sought healing from a hemorrhage that had plagued her for 12 years, as recorded in Luke 8:43-48. We read that this woman risked public rejection by appearing in her unclean state; she manages to get close enough to Jesus to touch His robe. She is healed! But that is not the end of the story. Even though Jesus is trying to walk forward amid a large and pressing crowd, He recognizes that healing power has left him; He stops and insists on identifying her and having a conversation with her. Although Jesus is undoubtedly happy to “nicely” heal her, He doesn’t stop there. He wants real relationship with this woman. There is also a deep kindness associated with Jesus’s insistence on bringing the woman forth. As embarrassing as it must have been for her, Jesus’s declaration of her healing would have put her well on the way to re-acceptance in her community.
As we negotiate life as fallen people in a fallen world, it is easy to compromise on many fronts: integrity, self-care, time management, relationships. It is absolutely vital to remember that we serve a Triune God, a God of internal relationship who created us to participate in that intimacy with Him and to develop it with one another. Our Lord calls us to be loving, kind, gracious, merciful, forbearing, and encouraging in our relationships. Learning to do so helps us to partake in the nature of Christ, to become who He has created us to be and to become fit for heaven. May we remember that the pleasure of nice is fleeting and not settle for anything less than the deep connection that our Lord desires for us.