Grace and peace to the children of the day, and greetings to the denizens of the night.
Today, a deliveryman for DHS (the European equivalent of UPS) came to my door to deliver me a package (of Gospel tracts. Woohoo!). Before giving me my package, however, he asked me if I would take delivery of a package for someone else in my apartment building, who supposedly wasn’t at home. This is nothing unusual, as neighbors have taken packages for me, in my absence, and I used to take packages for my neighbors. I refused however, and after a subtle attempt to persuade me otherwise, the gentleman delivered my package and then attempted to solicit help from another neighbor.
Now, to the casual observer, my actions may have appeared unneighborly, and even somewhat hostile. But, under the circumstances, believe me: they were totally necessary.
You see, I left off accepting packages for my neighbors (and allowing them to accept them for me) about a year ago, because, as I’ve related in my testimonies Chronology of Joy and God is in Control, my neighbors are active participants in the persecution of my family and me. It is nothing for my neighbors to graciously accept delivery of a package addressed to me, or even hold the door open for me to go through, when I have a handful of groceries. Yet, these same neighbors have no qualms about doing something reprehensible to me or my children.
Now, for someone unfamiliar with spiritual warfare, this type of behavior from an enemy may seem inconsistent and even confusing. But those of us who are involved in kingdom work know that this type of behavior from an enemy is entirely consistent.
You see, the Bible says that the wicked are wise to do evil, but ignorant to do good. If they were able (and willing) to do good, then it would be difficult (or at least hard) for them to do wickedly. However, many seem quite content to do evil. Therefore, to do good is not only something they can’t do, it is something they likely are unwilling to do. In that they are unable to do good, but want to appear good, then they have to settle for the nearest alternative: they have to be nice.
Nice is not good; and, though the two often look identical on the surface, they are not. The difference between nice and good is motive. It is the reason we want to do a thing that differentiates being nice from being good.
To help an elderly person with his groceries, for example, is a nice thing to do. It can also be a good thing to do. What distinguishes the two is whether the person rendering the help does it for himself, or does it for the elderly person. Doing something for selfish motives (to look good in front of others, to make a particular person think you are good, to feel good about yourself, etc.) is being nice. Doing something because the person actually needs it, however, (and when it may even inconvenience you) is being good.
Certainly, for the recipient of the action–the elderly person, for example–whether a person does something to be nice or to be good is inconsequential, because he’s getting the help that he needed. Besides, we oftentimes cannot see the motive, even if we were so inclined. Still, as Christians, we ought to consider the motive. We ought to have at least an idea whether someone is being good or is being nice, even if we stand to benefit from the action.
We also ought to consider our own motives for doing a thing. When we do something for someone, we ought to consider whether we are doing it to be good, or to be nice. This goes especially for our enemies. Jesus never told us to be nice to our enemies: Jesus told us to to be good to our enemies:
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
I don’t see the word nice anywhere in that statement.
Loving our enemies doesn’t mean that we always have to do what would be convenient for them–like accepting their packages. Loving our enemies means being concerned for their welfare: especially the welfare of their eternal soul. And it means that we never do anything to hurt, harm or inconvenience them.
The stereotypical Christian is always smiling, going out of his way to help everyone (often when they don’t even need it), and telling everyone to “have a blessed day.” He is nice. Thought this may look good, it is not right. As a matter of fact, it could be dangerous. The enemy is counting on us to be nice. He is counting on us caring more for appearances than for what is good, right, and just. He is counting on us to be nice. When you are being nice, you are more concerned with what you appear to be than what you really are, and, in so doing, you are giving up ground to Satan: ground that he will exploit.
Let me illustrate this for you, as I return to the story of the DHL deliveryman.
As I said earlier, I used to accept delivery of my neighbors’ packages, and they would do the same for me. Yet, being enemies, they were, and are, also active participants in my family’s persecution. One of the things they love to do is occasionally ring our doorbell. Sometimes, it is a workman saying that he is painting an apartment upstairs or something and doesn’t have a key. Once or twice it has been a neighbor with a child, saying that the child rang our doorbell by mistake. At times, it has been the person who brings the weekly free paper or another solicitor, who wants us to let him into the building. There has even been no one there at all. But, most often, it has been the DHL deliveryman, saying that he has a package that he wants me to accept for a neighbor who isn’t at home.
Now, there was a time when this was happening more frequently than is common, and I suspected that it was intentional. It was during this time that the doorbell rang one Saturday morning, at about 7 a.m. When I went to the door, a DHL deliveryman, a woman, actually, asked if I would take a package for my next-door neighbor. Because of the hour, I refused, and when I did so, the woman got angry, and said, “Why not? They always take packages for you.” When she said this, the light bulb went on in my mind. You see, they were counting on me being nice, but rather than appreciate me being nice (and why should they, since the whole scenario was contrived?), they were using my niceness against me.
Proof that this was, in fact, the case, is that this same DHL deliveryman/woman once asked my wife to accept a package for a neighbor who lives in another stairwell of the apartment building. To be nice, my wife accepted.
I learned a very important lesson that day. And I’ve taught it to my children. As Christians, we are not supposed to be nice. We are supposed to be good. We are supposed to emulate our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus was not a nice man: Jesus was a Good Man.
Beating people with a whip (unless they ask you to: yeah, there are people like that…) and throwing their money on the ground is not nice. Calling people snakes and hypocrites is not nice. Commanding fig trees to dry up and wither away is not nice. Yet, Jesus did all these things, because He is Good. Clearly, then, what is nice is not always good, and what is good is not always nice. We would do well to remember this.
Enemies are always going to be there. Where there is life, there will be enmity (Genesis 3:14). We therefore have to manage our enemies, just like we manage all the other issues of life. And Jesus told us exactly how to manage our enemies: we have to love them, bless them, pray for them, and, do good to them. If we can’t do it for their sake, we can at least do it for Jesus’ sake.
Be encouraged and look up, for your redemption draweth nigh.
The Still Man