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One of the hardest things to forsake is our self image and the fear of what our family, friends and society think of us. It is a problem that affects us all to varying degrees, and it is a problem that we will probably have to keep working on for the rest of our lives.

The media has glorified the "nice guy" and has portrayed him as holy, by telling us that being nice is the greatest act of love. The church has also glorified this image by portraying Jesus as the ultimate nice guy, who doesn't smoke or use coarse language, and above all, doesn't offend anyone by demanding that they drastically change their present lifestyle. But this false Jesus bears no resemblance to the real Jesus of the Bible. (See Which Christ are you Following?)

While St. Paul tells us to "avoid all appearance of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22), Jesus tells us that being seen as evil is inevitable if we are truly following in His footsteps (Matthew 10:25). He promises that we will be hated by everyone for our faith in Him, and that only those of us who survive that spiritual test will receive eternal life (Matthew 10:22). Paul also promises that if we try to follow God sincerely, we WILL suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). In fact, Jesus said that unless we too embrace persecution, as He did, we are not worthy to follow Him (Matthew 10:38).

Wanting to be seen as a nice guy is most strong with our relatives and friends. But Jesus strongly challenged this desire by saying that unless we "hate" our families and friends (or at the very least appear to hate them), we can't be one of his followers (Luke 14:26). When someone wanted to stay behind and look after his dying father instead of preaching the Gospel, Jesus would not allow it (Luke 9:59-60). And when someone just wanted to say goodbye to his family before coming with Jesus, he was told that if he did that he wouldn't be of any use to God (Luke 9:61-62). Think about that for a moment. Jesus wouldn't even allow him to say goodbye!

Jesus himself did not care about what his family thought of him, and he was not afraid to be seen as being nasty (Matthew 12:47-50). He even went as far as calling one of his closest friends "the devil incarnate", when Peter let his fears make him try to stop Jesus from doing God's will (Matthew 16:21-23). And Jesus certainly didn't care what the religious and political establishments thought of Him when he called them damned hypocrites! (Matthew 23)

Jesus wants us to be wise as serpents. (Matthew 10:16) He wants us to recognise when our family and friends are being used by the devil, and He wants us to follow Him in preference to them. He tells us that they will come to us as wolves in sheep's clothing. (Matthew 7:15) We should not be fooled by the smiles and "niceness" of those who try to fight against our decision to follow Jesus. Their niceness is just a mask for all the nastiness they have inside. They know that we too want to be seen as "nice", and they will use that to try and manipulate us into following them instead of following Jesus. But, when we measure our actions on the basis of how "nice" we will look, we are basing our actions on fear of what people will think; and the only fear that God allows is the fear of God himself. (Luke 12:4-5)

Others may call us a cult because we take Jesus seriously. As you grow in faith, they will say that you have been brainwashed. When we work together as a team, they will say we are robots controlled by an evil leader. The only thing that will satisfy them is if we stop serving God full-time, and return to the slave-like existence we had when we worked for the system in a world controlled by greed. If you give in to their demands to prove you are respectable, to prove you are an individual, and to prove that you are free, you will end up being none of those things, because you will have become a slave, controlled by your desire to be a "nice guy". While you seek to remain friends with these people, you will be committing spiritual adultery and declaring war on God himself. (James 4:4)

Let us therefore reject our desire to look good, and let us desire strongly to follow God above all things, and to work together as a team with the people who really count the most. (Matthew 12:49-50; Acts 2:44; Acts 4:32) Let us embrace persecution, and even rejoice when it comes (Matthew 5:10-12); and let us say "No more Mr. Nice Guy!".

(See also The Cuddlies, and Ananiases.)

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