*But not if people are being hurt, bullied, or terrorized.
Niceness has been known to kill churches.
I’m not talking about saying “please” and “thank you.” I’m not talking about displays of consideration. I’m talking about conflict avoidance.
I grew up in the South and was taught not to be “ugly” in my behavior or comments. If someone told a racist joke, I was to smile and move on. If someone acted in a passive-aggressive way I was to accept it. If someone exploded in public, I was to pretend like it wasn’t really happening.
Today, after almost 40 years of professional ministry, I believe that “niceness” for the sake of avoiding conflict makes God unhappy. Bullies depend on bystanders to be nice. Sometimes, the most faithful thing to do is address conflict head on.
- A church didn’t want to fire a preschool director for emotional abusing her students because her family had been members for three generations. It wasn’t until one of the other teachers reported her to Child Protective Services that she was finally let go.
- “The biggest givers” threatened to leave the church if the elders did’t follow their instructions. (Turns out, they weren’t even the biggest givers at all.)
- A member threw a hymnbook at the pastor on his way out of worship. Nobody wanted to address it because it would embarrass his wife.
- A committee moderator consistently trashed members of the committee who weren’t present and nobody came to their defense for fear she’d trash them at the next meeting.
When did we in the church conflate being “nice” with being faithful? Part of growing in spiritual maturity is holding each other accountable. That’s what Jesus did. We are called to be more like Jesus.
Instead we overlook bad behavior because we don’t want someone to be mad at us, or we don’t want them to “leave the church” or we are afraid we will become the next target. It could happen. Yes.
But a healthy Church holds people accountable in love. As we move into Lent this Wednesday, we need to do more of this.
PS My new favorite passage for Lent is Jeremiah 13:1-11 but I’m too nice/afraid to preach it. The Word of the LORD.