No More Nice Canadians (By Les Kovacs)
Scripture Reading: Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” 4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. 5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. Mark 3:1-6
Just about anywhere in the world you may travel, Canadians have a reputation for being nice. Having a red maple leaf sewn on your backpack will most often bring a friendly smile to your host’s face. Having the stars and stripes on your backpack, however, well that’s a whole other discussion. We Canadians are generally regarded as being kind, generous, polite, and peaceful. In short, we’re…nice. That’s how you know Jesus wasn’t Canadian. He wasn’t just “nice”, but He was many other things, like humble, compassionate, forgiving, and loving.
Maybe if Jesus had taken a course on conflict resolution in Canada, he would have realized that there was actually a very simple — a very nice — solution to his dispute with the Pharisees over doing miracles on the Sabbath. All he had to do was wait until sundown when the Sabbath ended, and then perform His miracle of healing the man’s withered hand. The afflicted person would be healed and the Pharisees would have nothing to complain about. That would have been the nice thing to do. Nobody’s feathers would ruffled and everyone gets to go home happy. It’s probably what the Pharisees had expected him to do. But Jesus wasn’t concerned about being nice. He was concerned about doing what was good and right.
In another story found in Luke 13:14, Jesus is chastised for healing a woman on the Sabbath who had been crippled for eighteen years. “Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. Come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’” But Jesus didn’t care about any of that. He had already declared himself “the Lord of the Sabbath.” The Sabbath exists because it was, and is, and always will be His creation. In other words, the Lord has authority over the Sabbath; the Sabbath doesn’t have authority over Him.
In our scripture reading above, Jesus sums up his entire ministry with just two words: “do good.” Those two words cover everything Jesus came to earth to do … heal the sick, cast out demons, declare the kingdom of God, go to the cross and tear down the wall of sin that separated us from God. Everything Jesus did was for our good and for His Father’s glory.
So how can we, the disciples of Christ, imitate Him and “do good” in ways that glorify God? One way is to put into action all the “one anothers” found in Scripture, such as encourage one another, instruct one another, accept one another, serve one another, submit to one another, forgive one another, show humility toward one another, offer hospitality to one another, and above all, love one another. Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
It’s so much easier for Christians to act nice instead of actively seeking justice, or showing mercy, or simply being a friend to a stranger. Being ‘nice’ doesn’t confront the pain and anguish of this broken world in the same way that Jesus did, and commanded us to do as well. Being nice only makes us agreeable, not good. Jesus knew that and He modeled it for us every day of His life on earth. Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that being nice is the same as being righteous.
Praise be to our great God!
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.