Teaching & Suggestions

Was Jesus Nice?

by Steve Ray on February 20, 2017

I’m OK, you’re OK. Be yourself! Gotcha covered buddy!

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me. “That was not very Christ-like.” This response usually comes after being honest to the point of making someone upset.  The implication is that Jesus was a cuddly little nice guy who was always smiling, always accepting with kind words – in short NICE.

In America we tend to be pretty nice, except maybe if you live in New York City. But in contrast to the rest of the world we tend to be very polite, genteel, gracious and nice. Tour guides in other countries say that Americans are the nicest people. We transpose our niceness onto Jesus and think he was a lot like us.

But does LOVE = NICE?

Of course Jesus was loving. He is God after all and God is love (1 John 4:8). We also know that love does not always equate to NICE. God allowed Paul to have a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble (2 Cor 12:7). Three times Paul prayed for it to be removed. God said NO.  God was not acting very American. He certainly wasn’t very nice about it.

Nice is defined primarily as “pleasant or commendable, kind or friendly” (Collins English Dictionary). It originally comes from the Latin meaning “simple, silly or ignorant.”

“He’s not a tame lion, afterall” Quote from Narnia series

There is such a thing as “tough love.” It is the kind of love that cares enough to be honest, to confront, to discipline, to cause temporary pain to bring about eternal glory.  On the surface “tough love” does not always appear to be nice. How often has a child, sent to the corner blurt out “You are not very nice!”

Was Jesus nice?

Like Aslan the Lion in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series, Jesus is approachable and loving, but don’t ever consider him “tame” or too cuddly. Jesus is God as well as man. He expressed the wrath and anger of God as well as the mercy and love of God.

Imagine coming to the Temple in Jerusalem one day to pray. You hear a great commotion and run over to see an angry man throwing over tables, grabbing the money from the merchants and throwing the money on the ground.

Whipping the money changers and dumping over their tables

But worse, you see him make a scourge of cords – a whip – and striking people with it. You are shocked that anyone would be so rude and destructive, so inconsiderate and mean to lash people with a whip. People ran in fear! Everyone was upset. Jesus was red in the face and scowling.  It certainly wasn’t very “Christ-like.” How nice was that?

Jesus was always loving, but he was not always nice, as we Americans count niceness. Here is just one example. Jesus spoke very harshly to his fellow Jews.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. . . .  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matthew 23:27,  28, 33).

Ouch! Doesn’t sound very kind and courteous: not very thoughtful or nice!

So, maybe there is more to WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) than we’ve been led to believe. Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about being nice, being liked, acting like  genteel Americans. Maybe we ought to be more honest and forthright about the things that really matter.  Maybe we should be more willing to hurt some feelings, step on some toes, show tough love to those in sin.

Maybe we should be more Christ-like.

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Salvation by Faith Alone?

by Steve Ray on February 15, 2017

Since the days of Martin Luther it has been popular to reduce salvation to a sound bite. Salvation is not by works but by “faith alone.”

However, the Bible seems to have another idea. In my book CROSSING THE TIBER I mention a few passages from Scripture to give a more biblical perspective.

Here is a section from page 100 in my book:

“One last comment, even though it will be discussed in more detail later: there is no attempt here to pit baptism against faith, or belief against baptism.  Things are rarely that simple.  Faith and baptism are two sides of the same coin.  Are we saved by faith or by baptism?  Are we saved by believing or by the Spirit?  These are false dichotomies that should have no place in our thinking.

screen-capture“How does one receive salvation, justification, new birth and eternal life?

By believing in Christ (Jn 3:16; Acts 16:31)?
By repentance (Acts 2:38; 2 Pet 3:9)?
By baptism (Jn 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21; Titus 3:5)?
By the work of the Spirit (Jn 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6)?
By declaring with our mouths (Lu 12:8; Rom 10:9)?
By coming to a knowledge of the Truth (1 Tim 2:4; Heb 10:26)?

By maintaining the faith (Col 1:22-23; Mt 24:13)?
By works (John 5:28-29; Rom 2:6, 7; James 2:24)?
By grace (Acts 15:11; Eph 2:8)?
By his blood (Rom 5:9; Heb 9:22)?
By His righteousness (Rom 5:17; 2 Pet 1:1)?
By His cross (Eph 2:16; Col 2:14)?

“Can we cut any one of these out of the list and proclaim it alone as the means of salvation?  Can we be saved without faith? without God?s grace? without repentance? without baptism? without the Spirit?  These are all involved and necessary; not one of them can be dismissed as a means of obtaining eternal life. 

Neither can one be emphasized to the exclusion of another.  They are all involved in salvation and entry into the Church.  The Catholic Church does not divide these various elements of salvation up, overemphasizing some while ignoring others; rather she holds them all in their fullness.”

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A while ago I gave a talk in Ann Arbor Michigan. It was about the New Evangelization. As part of my talk I explained how Janet and I have our “evangelism antennas” up first thing in the morning – alertly watching for open doors and ways to share our Catholic Faith throughout the day. And the Christmas season is such a great time to do it!!

I explained that God sets up “divine appointments” for all of us and then holds his breath to see if we will do his bidding. If we don’t, it disappoints God, someone fails to hear the good news, and our days are more boring. Sharing the gospel is a great joy of life once we get over that hurdle of fear and self-consciousness.

After my talk I received this e-mail from Marnie. It was too good not to share. Learn from this! Take her ideas and use them yourself throughout the day. Enjoy!

Dear Steve,

Sue passed along your email.  I was telling her about the day after your Evangelization talk at Christ the King that I prayed in the morning about my antennae being up and had three occasions to share my faith on Wednesday.

Here is how it went.  I am M and the other person is J for Jennifer.  Jennifer works in the laundry room at Schoolcraft College where David and I go to work out.

M- (walking past big window of laundry/custodial room)  Oh, I love your purple decorations.  Purple is the color of Advent.  Are you Catholic?

J-  smiling says, yes, and added that purple is for royalty

M – Jesus is royalty!   I’m a convert to the Catholic Church because Jesus did not want disunity; He did not create divisions or denominations.  Merry Christmas!

J – Thank you for sharing that.

(The man in line, waiting to be handed a towel by Jennifer looked bewildered!)


After working out, the young girl at the gym desk told me that I knew her boyfriend from my teaching days.  I said I remembered what a good student her boyfriend was and how he had a nice, church going family.  I told her I knew all about Ward Presbyterian and Oakpoint where the boyfriend now attends.

 I told her how David and I were Kids Kamp directors at Ward for 14 years (she was a camper), but now we are Catholic and love the faith.  Went on to explain how Ward friends don’t understand why we are converts but that we still love Jesus, perhaps more.  Then we talked about whether or not she had a favorite Bible verse, which she didn’t.  I challenged her to find one and report back to me!

Later in day was checking out at Lord and Taylor, purchasing a gift.  I told the clerk that her accent reminded me of my friend, Ula, who is from Poland.  When she declared that she is Polish, I told her about Ula from Krakow, Poland who had met John Paul II. 

She smiled and I told her how much I loved the Catholic Church and that I was a convert.  I asked her if she had been to the gift shop at The Shrine of the Little Flower that sells hand painted Polish ornaments?  That led to talking about the Eucharist and praying the Rosary.  Meanwhile another customer was waiting and I felt like I should not hurry :-)  

 So….thanks for all the encouragement at the Tuesday talk!  Your talk was excellent, exciting and made me think.  I was taking notes as that is my ADD way of listening better!  In about 2001 or was it 2002, your Defending the Faith talk (@Steubenville) about the Pope, had a huge impact on me.  That is the moment when I finally “got it” – about having a Pope.

On Thursday, at CSS Joshua study, I shared all this with my small group, and at our next fellowship lunch in January, the women decided we would all bring an antennae story to share.

Thanks for using your God given gifts to reach and teach so many of us!  May God bless you and your family this Christmas time.

~Marnie

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