There is a big difference between being nice and being godly or Christlike. People can be “nice” without the Spirit of God. Jesus was not nice, He was good. He was holy and righteous. He was loving, kind, compassionate, merciful, and self-sacrificing. But niceness was not His goal for Himself or for us.
Being nice is often about:
- Protecting myself by being pleasant and agreeable.
- Putting up a facade to impress others.
- Getting people to like me so I feel better about myself or to avoid conflict.
- Doing the right thing to look good to others but not necessarily with the right motives.
- Wanting other people’s approval (people pleasing, which is a form of idolatry).
- Trying to not rock the boat.
- Taking the easy or wimpy way.
- Being a doormat.
- Giving up my influence or personhood.
- Putting up with abuse.
- Not speaking up when others are bullied or mistreated or when I am sinned against even when I should speak up.
- Being weak.
- Fear of what others may think.
Acting in the Holy Spirit with God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is about:
- Honoring God above everyone and everything else and desiring His approval more than anyone else’s.
- Loving God wholeheartedly first.
- Loving people with God’s love second.
- Doing what is right in God’s eyes with the right motives.
- Standing firmly against anything God says is wrong.
- Speaking up against sin out of love for others and concern for their souls and eternal wellbeing. (Giving a godly rebuke but not in a critical spirit.)
- Obeying God even when it is unpopular, even in the face of persecution.
- Seeking to bless others and do what is in their best interest eternally.
- Being respectful of all people but not of evil.
- Defending and protecting those who are mistreated.
- Seeking God’s glory, not mine.
- Being very strong in Christ and in His authority to do good to others and to be the hands and feet for Jesus.
- Being ready to face those who oppose the Lord with love, truth, gentleness, and respect.
- Realizing people aren’t my enemies, my enemy is spiritual.
- Being willing to upset people in order to please God, when necessary.
In godliness there is great strength. And any suffering we do endure, we know God will use it to purify us so we don’t have to be afraid.
Now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…1 Cor. 4:7-9
Niceness and godliness can look similar from a distance
Being nice and being godly/Christlike can sometimes look the same from the outside which can make things confusing for a lot of Christians.
Outward similarities between niceness and godliness/goodness can include things like:
- Seeming selflessness
- Lack of contentiousness
- Avoiding being harsh or rude
- Seeming loving attitude
But the motives, energy source, and goals are totally different.
Motives and goals
Niceness wants to avoid conflict or get people’s approval.
Niceness is motivated by pride, fear, worry, or idolatry of other people and is powered by self-effort and striving.
- Are friendly so that other people will like them and not be mean to them, hopefully.
- Act selflessly to try to win friends and get a good reputation.
- Avoid arguments because they are afraid of conflict or because they don’t want to lose other people’s approval.
- Try to treat others really well so that others will treat them well in return.
- Try to act loving so they look good to others.
Nice people can be filled with doubt, insecurity, anxiety, depression, a desire to control others, fear, and worry. They beat themselves up when they make mistakes and often suffer from people pleasing and perfectionism. They want to appear righteous to other people with their own self-righteousness and their self-effort.
Godliness wants to honor God and do what is ultimately best for others to bless them in eternity.
Godliness/Christlikeness is motivated by the love and truth of God and fueled by the Holy Spirit of God.
- Are friendly to others because they are overflowing with the love of God for them.
- Act selflessly because they seek to die to self and live to honor Christ as Lord.
- Avoid unnecessary arguments and foolish controversies. But they stand firmly for biblical principles, treating others with respect, gentleness, and love as they share the truth, wanting to see others be healed and made whole in Christ. They are not afraid of conflict. They can stand their ground on important issues that matter to God. But they never do so in a way that is ugly, hateful, or hurtful.
- Desire to treat others well because God treated them well. They want to be Jesus’ hands and feet to others out of gratitude for all Jesus did for them.
- Seek to love others with the divine agape love (unconditional love) of God without expecting anything in return from other people, just wanting to please the Lord in their thoughts, motives, words, and actions.
Godly people are secure in their identity in Christ. They are overflowing with His supernatural peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. They are humble because they know there is nothing good in them. They depend on the goodness of Jesus to fill them and on His power to be able to do anything “good” in God’s eyes.
Nothing is about self or self-effort or glorifying self. Everything is about the power and glory of Jesus.
How would you describe the differences between niceness and godliness/Christlikeness?