I was sitting in a public place, working on my sermon, and I overheard a conversation. It seemed that a defense attorney was talking with a client on the phone. The conversation seemed to be about the client’s next steps. Obviously, the attorney was his advisor and intermediary. While describing an interaction, the attorney repeatedly told the client that the guy was as “nice as he could be”. He would occasionally warn that it did not necessarily mean anything.
We all make judgments about people based on how we perceive them. The attorney and the client made no decisions while on the phone, but it was clear that the other person’s attitude would weigh into their decisions in the future.
I have met quite a few people who have formed a negative impression of church or Christians because of a few people’s attitudes, behaviors or actions. They experienced a wide range of sinful behavior from those who claimed to be followers of Jesus or were active in a local congregation. If I am honest, I have met my share of those folks as well.
Given how much those negative experiences have affected many of us, including people outside the church, I have formed a theory that we will have to find ways to counteract these negative impressions. We need to be “as nice as we can be” to give a more realistic impression of the church, Christians, and God.
People may know more about you than you think they do. They may know that you attend church or that you are a follower of Jesus. They are watching you. Are you respectful of other people? Do you laugh at jokes that are hurtful to other people? Do you pass judgment and criticize all who do not share your specific beliefs? Do you whine, nag, and/or badger?
Your behavior in the grocery store, at the mall, in the office, and at sporting events is a testimony to the one we serve. My hope is that even in the difficult situations, you can be as nice as you can be.