Have you ever known a Christian who used “nice” words to say mean things? I lived in the Bible Belt for a while and would often hear a person say “Well, bless your heart.” At first, I thought the person was being nice by speaking a blessing to whomever they were talking to. I eventually realized what that the individual was using that phrase to mean “I think you are a complete idiot, but I am too nice to be honest with you.” Once I realized the real meaning of this “nice” phrase, it did not seem very nice at all.
Then there are those Christians who will find a scripture, often quoted out of context, and use it as a weapon against a person they disagree with. And if you try to disagree with them, then you are automatically going against God and since that is a bad thing, then you are not really allowed to disagree with them. The problem is that they have often ignored the full teaching of scripture on the subject and only lifted out the section of scripture they wanted so they could twist it into something God did not intend for it to say. This can be frustrating for those who really do want to follow scripture, but want to be true to its REAL meaning instead of the twisted meaning that some people want to give scripture.
Then there are those Christians who say they are “praying for you.” But the context of the conversation or tone of their voice, or their body language indicates that they are actually judging us and are not likely to be praying for us at all. Not all Christians do this. Many are genuinely praying and since most of us can use all the prayer we can get, then we are encouraged when someone says they are praying for us. But when Christians use the “I am praying for you” phrase as a nice way to tell us they think we are bad people, it takes away whatever encouragement we might have gained from genuine prayer.
Then there are those Christians who like to say harsh things to others but insist they are saying those harsh things out of “love.” There are times when we must say difficult things out of love. That is part of really caring about each other. But there are also times when we let “speaking the truth in love” become an excuse for giving our personal opinions out of a heart of bitterness. One way we know if a person who claims to “speak the truth in love” is really saying these things in love is if they are also willing to HEAR the truth in love. If we can actually have a gracious conversation with each other about difficult things, then it has probably been spoken in genuine love even if it seemed harsh at the time. But when one person wants to do all the harsh talking and expects everyone else to just listen, love is probably absent. When one person is willing to point out the weaknesses of others, but is unwilling to hear about his or her own weaknesses, love is probably absent. Anytime a conversation turns into a one way lecture instead of a two way discussion, love is probably lacking.
I am not suggesting that Christians should stop trying to be nice. Our world has become a pretty harsh and rude place. We need MORE niceness in our society, not less. I am simply observing that sometimes we Christians like to hide behind nice words to say mean things. Most people can see right through this thinly disguised human arrogance. They know it is not an example of true spirituality. It is one reason so many people are turned off by religious talk. We are not demonstrating genuine niceness when our behavior does not correspond with our words. More importantly than how people can so easily see through our false piety and Pharisaical self-righteousness, God sees through it! God knows our hearts. He will hold us accountable for using His Word, prayer and Christian phrases in selfish ways to hurt others. Perhaps we should keep this in mind as we say “nice” things to people today.