Updated: Apr 25
“After all, it’s all about being nice, isn’t it? And you don’t need Jesus to be nice.”
These words were expressed by a good friend of Joy and Todd, a missionary couple from West Africa who we had the opportunity to hear from earlier this month. The two spoke on what they have titled “The Religion or Heresy of Niceness,” something they have noticed to be infiltrating the church and shifting people’s thoughts.
“We come back to the states on occasion, and because we’re not here all the time we notice big changes that have happened”, says Todd.
Just before Covid the two were visiting churches they had supported and served in, primarily in the Central and West Coast areas of the United States, when they noticed a change in those who were once solid believers. There were former missions leaders, deacons, pastors, and elders who had lost their faith and left the church. Close friends of theirs who walked away from Christianity remained supporting their ministry, but as one of them reasoned, isn’t niceness something that can be done without God?
“We have lots of friends who are Muslim, Buddhists, Hindus, and Atheists, and sometimes they’re a lot nicer than the Christians we know. So why follow Jesus, and why go to church?” another one of the couples’ friends expressed.
The Heresy of Niceness ultimately acts as a means to serve oneself– that to create a better and easier life for ourselves, we only need “science, technology, reason, and niceness,” as Todd puts it. Jesus himself also calls us to love and be kind, which is why it is so close to the Christian faith.
Joy and Todd encouraged us with Daniel 3, where we read about the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s refusal to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image.
“Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s lives were suddenly on the line as they face the societal pressure to conform. Yet their response is composed and filled with certainty, illustrating their steadfastness in their faith and trust in God.
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16)
How encouraging is that for us as Christians? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surrendered their lives into the hands of God in this situation, honoring Him even if it ended up costing them.
Joy and Todd want to challenge us with some questions as we sit with what this means for us as Christians and our role in the Great Commission: “Are we in a place where we value God for who he is, and not for what he gives us?” and “Why do we serve God?”
We want to leave you with the encouragement that God is sufficient, and His character is good and faithful. In a time when the Heresy of Niceness is affecting people’s sense of urgency and willingness to go out and spread the Gospel, we are called to remain rooted in our faith just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were. We are called to reflect the way our life is different with Him as the foundation– a life that does not and could not stand on niceness alone but is in need of Jesus.
Student Missionary Union