The other day we were driving through downtown Atlanta on the way to Florida and saw for the first time the eye-catching Corey Tower.
Corey Tower is a massive, 300-foot tall structure located where 1-20, I-75 and I-85 converge. It claims to be viewed by over 1 million people each day and is “labeled as one of Atlanta’s most powerful branding icons.” Its centerpiece is a 2000 square foot digital display with messaging and graphics 24 hours a day.
As we drove through the city we were struck by its simple, but profound three-word message:
JUST BE NICE.
“Nice” is not a word that causes us to run to the dictionary for a definition. We have an intuitive sense of what it means to be nice. I can recall as a child when I had misbehaved that my Mom furrowed her brow, and simply said, “Be nice.” Or when I said something unkind, and she would ask, “Was that nice?”
To be nice is to be pleasant. Agreeable. And good. Nice people are polite. Courteous. And considerate. We instinctively know when someone is not being nice in their words or deeds.
Cultivating the character of Christ is about being nice in our relationships. It is the religion of the “Golden Rule”– “Treat others the way you want to be treated” (Matt 7:12). It is willing to do more than we are required. It is the spirit of going “the second mile” (Matt 5:40-41) even when we are tired, busy or occupied with important, personal matters.
Niceness grows out of the soil of a kind and tender heart. It is fertilized by love. And watered by compassion. To flourish and grow one must constantly hoe out the weeds of anger, envy and jealousy.
Thus the following Biblical admonitions about our interaction with others.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor 13:4-7)
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph 4:31-32).
“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” (1 Pet 3:8)
Being nice sets the tone for the way we talk to others. Sometimes it’s not what we say, but how we say it, as my wife, Norma Jean, occasionally reminds me. When I feel hurried, harried and hassled and react with a snappy retort, she will simply say, “Your tone.” That reminds me that I’m not being nice.
Niceness will smooth our rough edges. Soothe hurting hearts. And subdue rising tension. In a world that returns insult for insult and seeks revenge against the slightest slight, followers of Christ are called upon to “just be nice.”
“Just be nice” is a good motto for our homes. Our communities. Our churches. And our workplaces. Oh, and also for posting on facebook. The advice of one unnamed sage is fitting in all relationships and situations– “It’s nice to be important. But it’s more important to be nice.”
We would all do well to remember the words of the little girl whose bedtime prayers ended this way, “Lord, help the bad people to be good. And the good people to be nice.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman