A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Theology of Niceness — Ps Sam Powell

The churches of today have replaced God’s love with a false god of niceness. He will never interfere with our free will. He never wants to hurt anyone’s feelings. He doesn’t like it when we argue. He doesn’t really care about what we believe; He just wants us to play nice together. 

And so goes the theology of niceness.

But then something happens that niceness just can’t explain. A bomber sets off bombs in the middle of a huge crowd; a man goes to trial and the horrific details of his abomination of abortion comes to light. When those sort of things happen niceness just doesn’t cover it.

We tend to say mindless platitudes like “God hates sin, but loves the sinner,” or “repentance is when you final realize just how much God loves you.” That theology is nice, but it has no power in the face of great wickedness.

What power does it have when you have a mad man blowing up three year children? What power does it have when a man walks into a movie theater and opens fire? What power does it have when men fly airplanes into buildings?

How does niceness explain men like Kermit Gosnell and Adolf Hilter? Monsters so horrific that many of us can not even image it.

When the poor are oppressed, when children are abused and slaughtered; when sexual assault happens on five year old girls; when theft, torture, murder, pain, and suffering are common – there’s something within man that cries out for justice. There’s something in man that completely rejects the niceness of the hollow-headed spewers of lying vanity. And then the world asks us, “Where is your God?”

When we rejected imprecatory psalms, when we lied about the justice of God, we robbed also ourselves of the power of the gospel. And we gave up any hope of offering a meaningful answer to a world torn by hatred, and sin, and tremendous wickedness.

****

The above quote is by Ps Sam Powell and is from his sermon Sanctification Through Suffering – 1 Peter 4:1-7.  Sam is the pastor of First Reformed Church, Yuba City, California.  His weekly sermons can be found on sermonaudio.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

We’ve featured things by Ps Sam Powell before on this blog and we value him as a colleague in the battle to expose and prevent domestic abuse in Christian circles.

Further Reading

Praying for God’s Justice

According to Many Pastors, the Saints in Heaven are Sinning

Abuse andAnger:  Is it a Sin to be Angry Toward Our Abuser?

Praying for God’s Justice

our Psalms tag

20 Comments

  1. Annie

    Exactly. What happens to the power of the Gospel or the honor of Christ’s name when I want to give the story of the Gospel to a neighbor and she asks, “What has God done to help in your marriage?” When… my husband is abusive AND won’t even consider counseling? Yes!!! The world has a right to know the answer to the question…Where is your God?

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I remember that sermon…

  3. God-fearing mom

    All is not lost. We can still engage Christian culture with these truths they’re not used to during casual conversations and winsomely contend wrong ideas with scripture as they sprout. I get it now about those Psalms. I mean I don’t judge them as sinful emotions as I used to.

  4. Anonymous

    The longer I’m out from under these lies such as, “we must be nice,” the more OBVIOUS it is that these “theologies” CONTRADICT God’s word!

    Let’s just look at ONE of David’s Psalms for instance….I love me some Psalms of David! I’ve inserted some “all important” changes in parenthesis for the first few verses that good old David needs to hear in order to be hip to the new vernacular—come on old boy, get with the program!

    Psalm 140 For the director of music. A psalm of David.

    Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers; protect me from the violent, who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day.

    (Do you see David how you’ve named names and called people evildoers? That’s too harsh and may be considered incendiary and may offend some of our BEST tithers so we like to say things like “a person who has strayed from the path,” or a person may need to, “get right with God,” or something less straight-forward…..why say something so clearly when it is more palatable if presented with less clarity? No need to get people all stirred up for no reason!)

    They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips.

    (How about something less about snakes and poison which creates such a strong image in people’s mind like death and dying when we can use other examples such as soft kittens who yes, can scratch you with sharp claws but for the most part purr contentedly when you stroke them correctly. See again dear old David how it’s simply a matter of choosing more kind and gentle expressions — are you seeing that?)

    Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent, who devise ways to trip my feet.

    (David, DAVID — we don’t ACCUSE people of plotting evil! Who are YOU to judge? Have you never sinned before? Fallen off the wagon? I’m saying this PURELY for argument’s sake as everyone here KNOWS about the census you took when incited by Satan and the whole Bathsheba thing….well, we’ve said enough…..do you see how we’ve softened it for you by not filling in all the blanks? So much better, don’t you think?)

    The arrogant have hidden a snare for me; they have spread out the cords of their net
    and have set traps for me along my path.

    (I’d replace arrogant with something like, “the misinformed,” or “wise men who are blessed to know when they need to turn to other men of the church for advice,” something that keeps it among the MEN [less emotional than women’s thinking I’m sure you agree…], and again, we don’t come right out and say that traps are set,…how about something like, “when it APPEARS as though people have forgotten to take in their nets after fishing / hunting etc. and I was nearly caught in them — I’m sure it was all a misunderstanding and can be rectified without any hubabalu……I’ve forgotten to take my own net in a time or two if you know what I mean!)

    I say to the Lord, “You are my God.” Hear, Lord, my cry for mercy.

    Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle.

    Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord; do not let their plans succeed. Those who surround me proudly rear their heads; may the mischief of their lips engulf them.

    May burning coals fall on them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise. May slanderers not be established in the land; may disaster hunt down the violent.

    I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.

    Surely the righteous will praise your name, and the upright will live in your presence.

    Yep, I’m just waiting for the day when the bible will be re-written with politically correct jargon — or when it is banned completely.

    • Hi RBE, I remove your last sentence as it gave the impression that the audience of this blog is only Americans. Many of us come from other countries. Please don’t write as if we do not exist! Thanks. 🙂

  5. Mark

    I lived this false gospel all my adult life. Applauded by church people for my ability to perserve and “suffer for Christ.” Suffer yes, but not for Christ nor was He glorified. I suffered in great bondage because I held to the “Niceness lie.” With Paul I say cursed are those who preach a false gospel.

  6. Abby

    Thank you for writing this Pastor Powell. “Nice” is the evil of our day. People choose nice over truth so as not to offend. You wrote of some horrific things that are happening in our culture. It’s just us waking up to where “nice” leads. A shared morality is lost in our culture because we have been afraid to say the hard things because we are so “nice.”

    You called “nice” a false god and I think you are absolutely right.

    • Thank you for your words. This was transcribed from a sermon I preached several years back.

      • Abby

        You are a good teacher!!

  7. M&M

    My biggest issue with “niceness” is when people aren’t actually nice to victims. If people want to use the word “nice” because it has fewer syllables than other words I don’t mind so long as their niceness actually cares how the victim feels. When the perpetrator receives priority over the victim that’s not actually nice!!

    • Raped By Evil

      “My biggest issue with “niceness” is when people aren’t actually nice to victims.”

      M&M–you’ve hit the nail smack on the head! It’s the whole point actually–abusers USE words and phrases, behaviors and innuendos that have been ACCEPTED as “nice” in order to get away with / hide behind / create subterfuge and to INTENSELY abuse others. Hiding in PLAIN sight, and OPENLY abusing others under the guise of niceness. It’s amazing really.

  8. Anonymous

    Do I want the approval of man, or of God? “Niceness” is not always “biblical kindness.” And where is it written that the opposite of “niceness” is “meanness”? It is not. We don’t have to be mean. We are called to live lives glorifying to God through the means of “biblical kindness”. I read this somewhere: “Niceness is often built upon the sinful foundations of self-obsession.” I think there’s a lot of truth in this.

    It seems many think that life should go well for the “nice” person, and then life begins to crumble all around them and they know not where to turn. And then you know what gets hurled in our face: “Where is your God now?”

    • Raped By Evil

      The saddest part is that we Christians are supposed to be able to turn to each other in such times such as when life begins to crumble, but because there are so many interlopers and those masquerading as true believers, when we DO turn to them, we run into MORE of the evil and abuse we are being drenched in.

      “It seems many think that life should go well for the “nice” person,” …..maybe because so many of us are TAUGHT this principle at church so when we find that it not true, it can be foundation shattering……again, we should be able to turn to our brethren in Jesus for help but sometimes even those who truly belong to Him are mired in lies due to childish bible teaching. It’s all so tragic and sad!

  9. Scared momma

    Why is alway the abusive that we need to be nice to? Why isn’t anyone nice to the abused and/ or the Children? Didn’t Jesus say help the widows and children? Seems like everyone acts like he said help the evil ones.

    I left with nothing after more than a year of begging for divorce. But, poor ex, I wasn’t nice and gave him no warning. Just left out of blue. I guess a year warning was not enough. The only thing that was surprising was that I was able to do it, by then he thought he had me trapped forever. I did not hear once, from anyone, that he should be nice. He could let me and kids have some furniture or even our clothing. No one ever said why isn’t he nice, and help us. Or even ask him be nice and leave us alone to heal. I had to leave my church, because they were being nice to him. Supporting the poor abuser. He needs to be saved. He needs support. His ex wife and kids don’t need any thing.

    There is usually a double standard that applies. The nice always need to be nicer. But, the evil ones are to be pitied. No one tells them to be nicer. I guess because they know it will never happen.

    “Nice” seems to be an attitude that we all need to give into the bully/abusive to keep the peace. But, the peace is just temporarily. You can never be nice enough to them. They are never satisfied. The peace never lasts long, and no one seams to noticed that all this niceness/peace keeping never works.

    • Raped By Evil

      —“The nice always need to be nicer.”
      —““Nice” seems to be an attitude that we all need to give into the bully/abusive to keep the peace.”
      —“The peace never lasts long, and no one seams to noticed that all this niceness/peace keeping never works.”

      Scared Momma, what you’ve written is so true said so often on this website, yet we still keep running into this same predicament!

      The abuser is rarely held to the same outrageously high standards that we are held to, and yet others RUN to him / her if they even pretend to have curbed a smidgen of their abusive behaviors. Meanwhile, those of us abused by these evil ones are yelled at when we don’t immediately accept the “changed” performance / manipulation tactic of the abuser. And when we don’t heal and forgive IMMEDIATELY, we are AGAIN judged harshly and unforgivingly. It’s SICKENING really and it’s why so many of us have had to go outside the church to find help.

      Thank you for posting on this…it needs to be said again and again because it’s obvious it continues to happen over and over…….

    • Lea

      I think of proper niceness as a good thing, more akin to manners than true kindness though. But even in societies where manners were everything there were people you cut off, and there were duels. So generic niceness to everybody has never been a thing.

      And when you are consciously choosing to be ‘nice’ to the person in the wrong, rather than the person wronged you’ve made a value judgment.

    • Moving Forward

      I find this, too, and just don’t understand it. You worded it so well.

  10. Misti

    The root arguments I’ve heard used to justify/defend the “nice” thing stem from misinterpretations or misunderstandings of words. At best, it’s applying modern connotations or assumptions that aren’t actually in the original text—and sometimes, it’s not even in the English translation, where grammar’s warped or ignored!

    (Hey, that sounds like what a number of aggressively conservative folks complain about, insisting it’s done by default by those who disagree with them or even just point out logic holes. [bland expression])

    Philippians 4:8 is a common one, such as in the KJV.
    “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things.”

    The key terms–“true“, “honest“, “just“, “pure“, “lovely“, “of good report“–are defined in such ways as to justify silencing anything that makes the hearer uncomfortable. After all, how is that negative thing “pure” or “lovely”? Putting aside the inherent assumption that’s applying specific subjective definitions of those words, the verse explicitly says “think on THESE things”. (Links to BibleHub for Strong’s.)

    There’s also the phrasing of “if there be ANY”. Notice that it is, in fact, the word “any” and not the word “every”. So…it’s a list of MULTIPLE types of things that we’re to think on, not a bunch of descriptors that are intended to all apply to every thing we’re to think on.

    That “any” is explicitly saying that we’re to think on things that have SOME degree of the qualities indicated. That means, regardless how you define the terms, applying the context only to extreme case is violating the verse.

    I haven’t investigated the Greek on this verse, but translations are consistent on that syntax, which disproves the common application without so much as touching the definitions (which are another kettle of fish).

  11. M&M

    I wonder if part of the problem is the assumption that love makes people repent. Romans 2:4 does say the God’s kindness leads us to repentance, but the next verse says that hard-hearted people get wrath. It seems that love sometimes leads people to God but not always. Also, that doesn’t fully explain why someone would ignore the victim. Excessive pity to the perpetrator can be explained by some interpretations of scripture, but ignoring the victim I don’t see in even a misused scripture. Even if the victim is already a believer there’s nothing about retracting the love after someone becomes a believer. Galatians 6:10 prioritizes mercy to fellow believers.

    In the case I witnessed, the perpetrator’s needs were more visible (financial) and the victim’s were invisible (emotional) so I wasn’t surprised that some people’s human nature looked at the visible needs. However, the comments here tell me that victims are ignored even when their needs are visible and that is infuriating. It’s also upsetting when people fail to notice that the perpetrator caused his own problems and the victim didn’t cause her problems.

  12. Good discussions, everyone. Part of the problem is that we are so used to “prooftexting” ” that we forget that each book of the Bible was written to real people struggling with real issues.
    For example, Philippians 4:8 wasn’t intended and certainly doesn’t mean that we keep silent in the face of evil, and refuse to call things what they are. If Paul was just saying “be nice to everyone” then he would contradict his own writings, and he was not a fool. Above all that is the fact that the Bible, in its entirety, is the word of God and has no contradictions. God’s word is not Yes and No, Perhaps, and Maybe…

    I propose that we remove the word “nice” from the Christian list of “virtues” and stick with Biblical categories. Instead of niceness, talk of love, which rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. Talk of kindness, which is giving what is needed when it is needed. Love is not rude, love doesn’t murder with the tongue. Love doesn’t leave the broken and battered on the side of the road to fend for themselves. And love certainly doesn’t lie to protect the children of the devil.

    The Word of God is life and health and peace. The problem in so many churches is that they just don’t want to believe it. They want to protect their “ministries”, even when it destroys lives.
    Niceness might be acceptable in the world, but Paul wrote “If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (1Co 3:17 NAS).

    Those words are loving, they are kind, and they are pure, but they are not nice.
    Remember, everyone, you are the Temple of the Living God, and God takes that very seriously, even when men do not.

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