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  • Writer's pictureJacob Hansen

Was Jesus Nice?

Updated: Jan 6, 2022

So for the past few months I have been pondering a quandary.

I hear a lot of people use the term "Christlike" as another way of saying "be nice". I honestly wonder if people who use that expression in that way have read the New Testament. Jesus' nature is complex. On one hand, He is flipping tables and telling people they are going to hell. The next He is saying to forgive the Romans who were the very people who were committing acts of horrendous injustice. One minute He says He is bringing a sword that will turn us against each other and the next He is saying to turn the other cheek. One minute He is telling people to cut off their hands if it helps them to stop sinning, the next minute He rebukes those who were going to stone an adulteress.

Needless to say, both the "let's just be nice to everyone" and the "fire and brimstone" camps have plenty to back them. Do we just cherry pick what verses we like? If we are to be like Jesus are we just to be like the "nice Jesus"? Why is that? The reality is not that the aggressive Jesus is only found in a few passages. The reality is that you can find almost just as many verses of Him being aggressive as you can of Him being nice.

I am very curious to see how people reconcile these natures. I find Jesus the nice guy inaccurate and cherry picked. I find Jesus the fire throwing prophet equally inaccurate and unappealing. So who was he? His nature was perfect, but it is obviously complex. To what degree are we to take on this nature? What are we to make of Him? Simple saying, "Well He was Jesus so He could do that but we should not" seems to completely conflict with the idea that we are to be the manner of man that He was. Is there some complex way in which these aspects of His nature are to be integrated? Perhaps perfection is more complex than just being nice.

It is my observation that people usually bond to the version of Jesus that is most at peace with their natural constitutions. Agreeable people embrace the "nice Jesus" while those who are more aggressive in mind and temperament adopt the more aggressive Jesus. I am trying not to let my own biases sway who He was in my mind. I want to come to know Him. Yes Jesus was full of love, but His love was a sacrificial love, a tough love AND a kind love. His notion of love seems far more real, complex and powerful than the shallow "be nice" kind of love. That's also why I find Christ so meaningful.

Anyway, how do you reconcile these seemingly complex nature of "nice Jesus" and "aggressive Jesus"? Is it an either or proposition? When is the time for you to adopt the nature of "aggressive Jesus"? When is the time to adopt the "nice Jesus"? When did He do so?

Look For The Patterns

In looking into Jesus's nature I came to notice patterns. Jesus's behavior was not random, rather it is very clear that His behavior and attitudes have a clear pattern based on who is involved. It seems clear to me that Jesus interacted with 3 groups of people during His life on Earth. 

Group 1- Unbelievers: These were those who did not believe or who were outside of His fold generally. They may have simply been struggling with belief or sin or they may have been unbelievers living a life of sin. His attitude toward this group was nearly always "forgive them for they know not what they do" and His ministry toward them was shocking to the establishment of His day who saw those who struggled with sins as the “bad guys” whereas He characterized this group as the spiritually ill in need of healing through repentance inspired by love and truth. This attitude can be seen in His behavior toward the Romans, the woman at the well, and His association with outsiders of various kinds.

Group 2 Disciples: To his disciples, He was constantly pushing them to greater levels of faith and sacrifice. Like the rich man who came to Him saying he obeyed all the commandments. To him Christ said....that's good, now go sell everything you have. In His sermon on the mount, He laid out the law, but then pushed his disciples to live a higher law. He always pushed his disciples to be better and to show more faith through sacrifice.

Group 3 Hypocrites: These were the people "on the inside", those who claimed to be His people and followers, but who were perverting His gospel, leading people astray. These were those who actively were working against His work while claiming to be His (hence the hypocrisy). These were the imposters. It should never be forgotten that the Pharisees and Sadducees were claiming to be the representatives of Jehovah. They were claiming to represent Him. These were the ones He rebuked harshly and in so doing, drew a clear line between them and Him so that others would not be deceived.


In understanding these patterns we can come to understand that the Savior, like a wise parent, tailors His message and actions to the situation His children are in. Sometimes those actions involve weeping beside a suffering child, other times it involves boldly and clearly drawing lines between truth and falsehood. If we are disciples of Christ we should never underestimate what Christ wants of us.

He is our perfect example, we are to be as He would be if He were in our place. Don’t expect universal popularity if you are His follower, in fact, expect persecution from those who hate the truth. Expect the world to hate you. Expect to have enemies who want to destroy you but don’t expect to be justified in hating them back. Hate sin, love sinners. Hate lies, love those who tell them. Speak the truth and draw lines between truth and falsehood even when it brings scorn and above all, if you are His disciple be prepared to sacrifice. Take up His cross. That was His way and that is to be our way, especially in a society that is becoming increasingly Godless.

Elder Holland put it beautifully in April 2014


At the zenith of His mortal ministry, Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”16 To make certain they understood exactly what kind of love that was, He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”17 and “whosoever … shall break one of [the] least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be … the least in the kingdom of heaven.”18 Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others. Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once).


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Matt Wallace
Matt Wallace

I’ve thought about this before, especially in the context of the military. In America, Christianity is strongly associated with the American military and with political conservatism, neither of which claim “niceness” as their foundational value. I have long wondered how Christianity came to be so strongly associated with the military (and with conservatism) given the seeming mismatch of values. The British Empire has probably done more to spread Christianity around the world than anyone else, and yet there were plenty of things about the British Empire that were not particularly nice. I see the need for a strong military from a secular point of view, but integrating that with Christianity still seems to cause some values conflicts.

I agree that…

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