God is Just Not Nice

Do you worship idols?

Most of us make it through the day without encountering the topic of idols.

If asked, most people would say that the first of the Ten Commandments is unnecessary these days. “You shall have no other gods before me.” Seems an archaic request, relevant in Biblical times but outdated now.

We don’t generally see shrines or altars dedicated to little hand-fashioned gods.

Doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Just that we’ve learned to hide them behind a curtain of sophistication.

That’s what I do.

I’m not obvious enough to carve a little soapstone idol and erect an altar in my foyer but idols and the temptation to worship them are very real in my life.

Take, for instance, the temptation to worship NICE GOD.

When I read the Bible and study church history, I see the true God. When I read the gospels and encounter Jesus, I see the true God.

But the true God doesn’t fit in my NICE GOD box so I decide to edit Him a little (or a lot).

Using my spiritual airbrush, I make parts of Him disappear and all that’s left behind is NICE GOD.

NICE GOD is powerful , but He only uses that power for good, like healing and giving people stuff they want.

Sin makes NICE GOD sad but then He remembers Jesus and He’s happy again and we’re fine. Tra-la.

NICE GOD is easy to bring out in conversations with others. He loves poor people. He stands up to religious phonies. He’s down on judging others. People like NICE GOD and they think I’m cool for following Him.

Here’s a sign that you’re worshiping an idol and not the true God: it’s easy.

Here’s another sign: other people like Him and never get uncomfortable when you bring Him along.

NICE GOD fits in my pocket (or on the bumper of my car, my T-shirt, or hanging from the end of my necklace).

He only speaks when spoken to and He’s open to my requests for sunshine on my picnics, money to pay my bills, and healing for my nasty cold because I’m busy this week.

NICE GOD is as easy to swallow and as full of sunshine as Vitamin C.

Sometimes, I’m stupid enough to open my Bible to search for NICE GOD in the scriptures. Usually, it’s when there’s a lot of trouble in my life and I’m sure that somehow NICE GOD just needs a reminder that trouble is bad.

Trouble comes from the devil, right? Or sometimes trouble comes because I’ve sinned a little or made a bad decision but NICE GOD is forgiving, right? All I have to do is cruise around the Bible, find an old promise of prosperity, nudge Him a bit in prayer and He’ll get right onto turning things around for me, right?

Serves me right that usually on these spiritual scavenger hunts, I encounter indications that “nice” is not a word I’ll be using when I’m face-to-face with the Lord, illustrated by verses like this:

“I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” Isaiah 45:6b-7

I create disaster? What’s up with that? NICE GOD wouldn’t set a hurricane on a flea. Who’s this guy?

Or how about this verse in Isaiah 48: “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.”

Nothing really nice about afflicting people or giving tests. Seriously.

Maybe I should turn to the New Testament.

Ah, here’s Jesus talking, in John 8. Jesus is nice, right?

“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.”

That’s kind of uncomfortable. Telling people that they’re children of Satan falls right off the nice-o-meter. It’s not a cozy parable or a laughing meal with sinners. It’s actually kind of tough stuff.

Who is this guy?

Idol revealed.

“NICE GOD” is a fabrication of my own mind, a false god, a lie.

The true God visits disaster on people. He judges sin. He sends adversity, affliction, and tests that humans sometimes fail. He’s not concerned with my comfort, not in the short run, and “short” for Him can be a lifetime.

No one walks away from an encounter with the living God and says, “That was nice.” Or “Isn’t He so nice?” But is that something I really hope to find in the Creator of the Universe? Nice?

God is good but the things He allows into our lives for our good and for His glory aren’t always nice.

Jesus doesn’t make life nice. Sometimes He messes it up entirely.

It’s not nice when He takes His hammer and slams it down on my little NICE GOD idol. It stings a little. And it takes away my comfy delusion that if I just figure out the key to NICE GOD then my life will get easy.

But with NICE GOD out of the way, I’m free to get back on the adventure with the true God.

With the lie of NICE GOD broken into plastic pieces at my feet, I’m free to see the truth.

The truth isn’t always nice.

But let me live a life of not-nice truth over a beautiful lie and in the end, when I encounter the living God face-to-face, I won’t think He’s nice, but I’ll know I’m home.

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    The Conversation

  1. “The truth isn’t always nice.”

    So true, great post. So many of us choose the plastic Jesus. There are times I have to guard from doing this myself. This sin nature.. sure will be glad to get to heaven and never have to worry about it again.

  2. Wow, powerful post, Lori! I’m afraid we’re all guilty of chosing Nice God over True God. Thank you for the reminder.