10 September 2007

Speaking Ethically No. 13

By Rod Benson

July 2007

In 1996, Dr Arch Hart spoke at a pastors’ conference I attended at Mapleton, Queensland. At one point he said, “There are many good people in the church, but not many nice people.”

Christians are graciously credited with God’s righteousness, but we all need to build on that truth and, in the power of the Holy Spirit, become godly. We are “called saints,” but we need to “be holy.” Theologians describe this as the tension between the indicative and the imperative.

How do we achieve this? By imitating the Lord Jesus Christ: sharing his heart for God, reflecting his confidence in God’s word, modelling his love for people, catching his vision for justice.

Jesus is our Saviour, but he needs to become our Exemplar. The Bible needs to become our rule for life. The fruit of the Spirit needs to permeate all our relationships (Gal 5:22-23). As this occurs, we learn to trust, and be trusted; to respect others, and be respected in return; to practice fairness for all, and be treated fairly ourselves. And we help others to find and follow Jesus.

Who you are becoming is more important than what you are doing. A virtuous character is of greater value than a grand vision and a busy schedule.

In our workplaces, communities, churches and families there are people who yearn for trust, respect and fairness. They don’t need the far-off example of good people; they need the close-up love of nice people. They need to know they are not alone, that God is at work, and that justice will prevail.

You may be good, but are you nice? Does someone close to you need to know that you trust them? Do you know someone who needs to feel respected once again? How can you make your community a fairer place?

Jesus did not go around feeling good, but doing good (Acts 10:38). He stood with the powerless, sat with the hurting, and ate with the outsider. He taught and modelled radical trust, respect and fairness. He was both “good” and “nice.” And he wants us to follow him.

Rev Rod Benson is founding Director of the Centre for Christian Ethics at Morling College, Sydney.

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