Was Jesus Nice?

Ok, so here’s the story.  A Pharisee (a religious leader) hears Jesus speak and is apparently so intrigued he invites Jesus to lunch.

When Jesus doesn’t follow the religious custom of ceremonially washing before the meal, the Pharisee notices it.  Jesus notices that the Pharisee notices.

Jesus then tells the Pharisee and the other Pharisees present that although they are concerned about religious ritual, they are really hypocrites.  (Luke 11:37-54).

Now, granted, we don’t know the tone of voice Jesus used, but I can’t imagine any non-insulting way to say such things.  And, in fact, one of the lawyers responds, “Teacher, when you say this, you insult us too.”

Jesus’ behaviour is intriguing.  It’s not the way Emily Post counsels one to act toward a host when invited to lunch.  And this isn’t the only example.  How about the time Jesus called a woman a dog? (See Matt. 15:21-28).

I think there is something to learn here about Jesus: Jesus was not nice.  Kind, yes; nice, no.  There is a difference.

The American Heritage Dictionary (4th Ed.) defines “nice” as “[p]leasing and agreeable in nature.”   “Kind” is defined as “of a friendly, generous, or warm-hearted nature” and “[s]howing sympathy or understanding; charitable.”

Jesus wasn’t about trying to please people by being agreeable.  He was not a man-pleaser.  He was too much committed to Truth.  (John 14:6).  Nice is for man-pleasers.

Jesus was, however, friendly, generous, warm-hearted, sympathetic, understanding and charitable, i.e., he was kind.  This is a good distinction to keep in mind because, if you are a Christian, you are called to be like Jesus. (Romans 8:29).

It’s also important to remember Jesus knew what He was doing in such situations and had purposes apparently more important than the feelings of those to whom He spoke.  This is a good thing to keep in mind before you start calling your lunch hosts hypocrites or female acquaintances dogs. GS

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