Was Jesus Nice?

by Steve Ray on January 7, 2020

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me. “That was not very Christ-like.” This response usually comes after being honest to the point of making someone upset.  The implication is that Jesus was a cuddly little nice guy who was always smiling, always accepting with kind words – in short NICE.

In America we tend to be pretty nice, except maybe if you live in New York City. But in contrast to the rest of the world we tend to be very polite, genteel, gracious and nice. Tour guides in other countries say that Americans are the nicest people. We transpose our niceness onto Jesus and think he was a lot like us.

But does LOVE = NICE?

Of course Jesus was loving. He is God after all and God is love (1 John 4:8). We also know that love does not always equate to NICE. God allowed Paul to have a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble (2 Cor 12:7). Three times Paul prayed for it to be removed. God said NO.  God was not acting very American. He certainly wasn’t very nice about it.

Nice is defined primarily as “pleasant or commendable, kind or friendly” (Collins English Dictionary). It originally comes from the Latin meaning “simple, silly or ignorant.”

There is such a thing as “tough love.” It is the kind of love that cares enough to be honest, to confront, to discipline, to cause temporary pain to bring about eternal glory.  On the surface “tough love” does not always appear to be nice. How often has a child, sent to the corner blurt out “You are not very nice!”

Was Jesus nice?

Like Aslan the Lion in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series, Jesus is approachable and loving, but don’t ever consider him “tame” or too cuddly. Jesus is God as well as man. He expressed the wrath and anger of God as well as the mercy and love of God.

Imagine coming to the Temple in Jerusalem one day to pray. You hear a great commotion and run over to see an angry man throwing over tables, grabbing the money from the merchants and throwing the money on the ground.

Whipping the money changers and dumping over their tables

But worse, you see him make a scourge of cords – a whip – and striking people with it. You are shocked that anyone would be so rude and destructive, so inconsiderate and mean to lash people with a whip. People ran in fear! Everyone was upset. Jesus was red in the face and scowling.  It certainly wasn’t very “Christ-like.” How nice was that?

Jesus was always loving, but he was not always nice, as we Americans count niceness. Here is just one example. Jesus spoke very harshly to his fellow Jews.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. . . .  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matthew 23:27,  28, 33).

Ouch! It doesn’t sound very kind and courteous: not very thoughtful or nice!

So, maybe there is more to WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) than we’ve been led to believe. Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about being nice, being liked, acting like genteel Americans. Maybe we ought to be more honest and forthright about the things that really matter.  Maybe we should be more willing to hurt some feelings, step on some toes, show tough love to those in sin.

Maybe we should be more Christ-like.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra Lipari May 5, 2013 at 1:11 PM

The “nice” construct has led us to the newest and strongest vein of relativism we are battling today. Nice = tolerate everything even unto death! Now that’s not nice! To live outside of God’s Word is to chose death according to a few very strong proponents, like say, Moses?

Thank you Steve. Long road, many battles uphill but onward Christian soldiers!

Toni Landon May 6, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Hello Doug and Becky Ball! Have been following the blogs and videos. You must be having an amazing time! Very moving, I’m sure! All is well here, finally going to have warm days this week. Miss you! Love you man!
Love, The Girls!

Sue May 6, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Reminds me of when we got a new priest many years ago. Talk about fire and brimstone! He was an older priest and every homily every Sunday was about “Turn off the T and the V!! It’s a hotline for the devil right into your homes!” And, to everyone’s dismay, there was no change for the Christmas Eve homily. I began to wonder how long I would be able to keep my teenage sons going to Mass for what seemed like a weekly beating. He wasn’t giving us “nice” homilies that we would rather hear. People started driving to other parishes for Mass and the collections went way down. I finally asked God to help me see this priest as He sees him and instantly I saw a holy man that loved us so much he was willing to have people hate him just to help those who would listen take back our souls, to really pay attention to what we were watching as a family on tv. God really opened my eyes. And what we had been watching, as a family, was not as funny and harmless as I had thought it was. This man showed me by his actions that to really love someone is to care about their soul. This holy priest became a dear friend and a powerful, faith-saving influence for me and I will be forever grateful to Father Thaddeus Bryl, may he rest in peace.

Jim and Mary Lou Fofarty May 6, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Praise The Lord! You guys are having too much fun what with dancing and all! You are visiting many of the same places we saw last January..wish we were with you now. Keep an eye on that wild couple in your group..Ephraim and Regina Yitbarek..just kidding…miss and love them and send all of you God’s blessings as you travel in His Holy Land. PS Keep the faith! And stay full of His joy.
In Christ,
Jim and Mary Lou Fogarty

Susan Melkus August 30, 2017 at 2:51 PM

Thank you so much, Steve Ray! Bravo on this EXCELLENT blog post! This is one of the most consoling things I’ve read in a long time. I am not comfortable with the word “nice.” In fact, I have come to hate it, because of the horrible definition it has taken in the last few decades. Bravo! Truth sets us free! Truth spoken in love sets us free, not being “nice.” Jesus never said, “Blessed are the nice.” He said “Blessed are the meek, the kind, the merciful.” There is a huge difference between being ‘nice’ and being loving. Thank you for expounding on this with such honesty and conviction. You’ve nailed it, sir!

kiki boubay January 8, 2020 at 4:12 PM

I love this article
Most Christians are confused they confuse nice with doormat or allowing people to shove you around
what would Christ do ? I know he would not let people who are wrong walk all over him he was all about right an d wrong . He was not a wimp or a turn the other cheek as we think we know it
I understand the new meaning of turn the other cheek means to get your enemy or to fight back !!!
It does not mean if somebody hits you to let them hit you again that is wrong wrong wrong

Andy Wright January 8, 2020 at 7:04 PM

I would say kind is more appropriate. And sometimes being kind means having to deliver tough love.

B. Polus January 9, 2020 at 8:29 AM

ROMANS 9:16 – “So then, everything depends, not on what we humans want or do, but only on God’s Mercy.: – Reference: Good News Bible GNT

Michael January 9, 2020 at 2:37 PM

Good article. But as far as I am aware there is no evidence that Jesus used the whip to hit people. That seems to me to be pure conjecture.

STEVE RAY HERE: This is the same thing that was used on Jesus during the Passion. Not sure what it would be used on if not the people. “Whip: 6.26 ??????????, ?? n: a whip consisting of either a single or multiple thongs with or without weighted tips on the ends—‘whip.’ ??????? ?????????? ?? ???????? ‘making a whip of cords’ Jn 2:15. The weighted tips of a ?????????? would normally have been made of metal so as to increase the force of the blow and to inflict more severe punishment.”

Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 55.

Michael January 9, 2020 at 4:01 PM

My suggestion is that it would have been used to drive the animals out of the temple. I doubt the whip Jesus used was anything like the whip used on him as his anger was impromptu and the whip appears to have been fashioned on the run so to speak. PS I enjoyed your video series.

STEVE RAY HERE: Michael, thanks for your kind words. The video series has taken us 20 years to make and we have one final installment.

I understand peoples’ reticence to see Jesus hitting someone with a whip but I think that as this commentator states it, is certainly implied by the text and structure of words. There’s no reason to deny it in my estimation.

“ (Sorry, the Greek text does not copy) ????? ???????? … ?? ?? ??????? ??? ???? ????. It would seem that the whip was used on the owners of the cattle as well as on the sheep and oxen. ????? ???????? in the Synoptist accounts (Mt. 21:12; cf. Mk. 11:15, Lk. 19:45) certainly applies to the men; the Synoptists do not mention the driving out of the cattle.”

Augustine. (Tr. x. c. 5.) “He who was to be scourged by them, was first of all the scourger; And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple.”

HAJ January 10, 2020 at 5:05 AM

Jesus being perfect, could not sin. That means He could be angry without losing His temper. ( = "Just anger") I used to be a zookeeper, and so I am alert to ponder Bible passages that feature animals. Cattle content in one place are loath to move, so it sometimes takes a good whack for a man not on horseback to get them moving– but a whip made of cords applied to the backside will do the job. Turning over tables of money can be frightening to those around; but look: Jesus says to those selling cages of doves, "Take these things hence (away) !" This shows He is perfectly in control of his anger, for if you turn over cages of doves, you will break their wings or otherwise injure them when they crash to the ground. Jesus measures his anger according as it is needed to get his point across. The moral of this story is, sometimes the energy and action of anger is needed to change things; but we need to pray for, and practice, the virtue self-control and prudence (as well as fortitude) so as not to lose our temper whilst "cleansing the temple".

STEVE RAY HERE: Well said!!

gordon lucas January 10, 2020 at 7:31 PM

John 2:15 tells us that Jesus fashioned the whip . . . . . contrary to the nice Jesus pictured above, this was a deliberate and premeditated action. THEN he drove the people and the animals out of the temple. He overturned their tables, and created havoc that day. I doubt he did this for show . . . . it would be my guess that this wasn’t for show and he left a few welts on a few people as food for thought.

Wisdom literature tells us that the rod is to be used, physically. I think a few of the comments above come from the “Church of Nice,” a wonderful euphamism coined by our friend Michael Voris.

B. Polus January 12, 2020 at 9:29 AM

MARK 10:18 – “Why do you call me good/” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone.” – Reference: Good News Bible GNT

G. Poulin January 24, 2020 at 8:02 AM

The failure to show anger, real anger, at genuine wickedness is one of the strange perversions of the modern mind. Instead, the modernist displays unlimited ferocity towards the innocent. Demonic? Probably.

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