I generally consider myself to be a nice person. Chances are, you probably consider yourself one, too. I don’t go out of my way to be a jerk (except when I do). I do my best to be considerate of other people’s feelings. I try to be a positive influence at work. I surprise my wife with little gifts (usually chocolate), and take my kids out for Dad time (and probably too many treats).
All in all, I’d give myself a solid B+ on the “nice guy” scale. But what would it take for me to get to an A—is that even possible?
Honestly, I don’t know. But I’m not terribly concerned, because being “nice” isn’t my goal in life. I want to be kind and considerate, without question, but if I had to be known for something, it’s not niceness.
I’d much rather be known for being a godly person, which is a much loftier goal. But it’s also the goal we should all be pursuing. C.S. Lewis put it well in Mere Christianity:
“Niceness”—wholesome, integrated personality—is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic, and political means in our power to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up “nice”; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world—and might even be more difficult to save. 1
Niceness clearly isn’t a bad thing; you could even call it, as Lewis does, an “excellent thing.” I’m a Canadian, and we’ve built our entire reputation on being nice people (even if we’re really just passive aggressive). So “nice” is easy for me because it’s the culture I live and breathe: don’t rock the boat, don’t offend, don’t be judgmental. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
But being a nice person isn’t why Christ has saved us—and it is not what he seeks to transform us into. He has called us to something better. He is transforming us into something better. He wants to make his people like him—perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:16). He wants us to be holy. To be godly.
And the really good news is this is what he is transforming each one of us who believe in Christ into being. He is making us holy right now. He gives us a desire to pursue godliness. A willingness to stand and, with equal parts conviction and kindness, live as salt and light in the world. And in the end, when we stand before him on the last day, he will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant… Share your master’s joy!” (Matthew 25:21).
This is what I want to be known for. I don’t want to settle for being nice. I want to pursue the promised fruit of godliness. How about you?