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Nice Is Not a Virtue

Posted by admin in February 8th, 2021
Published in Uncategorized

My friend, Dr. Thane Hutcherson Ury, posted a meme recently on Facebook. The words caught me off guard, like when you know what someone is going to say and you are about to finish their sentence, and then at the very end they surprise you and suddenly you realize you had no idea where they were going.

 

His meme was like that for me.

 

He quotes Charles Spurgeon, “Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” BOOM! And there it is.

 

“There is a way that seems right…” Proverbs 14:12.

 

In my opinion, I think that’s what the Church is lacking today—the ability to discern good from better.

 

In my last post, I share Dr. Ury’s piece on Gladys Aylward. She was a close personal friend of his family. The Ury family served in Taiwan where Gladys moved after the communist took over mainland China. Many Chinese and missionaries fled to the small island to escape the violent communist regime.

 

From her story, we can see a strong, determined, principled woman. She was a giant of the faith, though small in stature. Dr. Ury describes her, “4’10” on the outside, but 9’7”, 375 pounds of raging obedience on the inside!”

 

The backbone and determination Gladys Aylward used to obey God and to get to China, served her the rest of her life, whether crossing a hostile continent, unbinding hundreds of years of Chinese tradition, shepherding 150 orphans over a rugged mountain range into safety, or standing against the pressure of Hollywood. Gladys lived with discernment that knew the difference between, “right and almost right.”

 

When Hollywood decided to make a movie of Aylward’s life, they asked award-wining actress Ingrid Bergman to play the part of Gladys (Inn of Sixth Happiness). Gladys said no to Bergman. She did not agree that the actress should play her part in the film. But Hollywood did it anyway. And Aylward made it very public that she wanted nothing to do with the film.

 

However, Ingrid Bergman was so moved by Gladys’s life story that after the filming, she wanted to meet Gladys. As the story goes, Gladys would not meet with the famous actress. Bergman, at the time (married) was having an affair and living with a married man. She had his child out of wedlock. Ingrid was heartbroken that Gladys wouldn’t meet with her. I heard Gladys say in an old TV interview, “If that woman thinks I got those 150 children across that mountain range singing ‘nick-nack patty wack give a dog a bone,’ she’s sadly mistaken. It took the power of God, songs of praise, prayer and reciting the Scriptures to get us across that mountain range and anything less is a sacrilege.” WOW! Aylward refused to cooperate with film makers as she didn’t believe God was properly credited with all He did in the miracles of her story. And there she is right. The film does not clearly portray the events as the God-given miracles they were.

Many thought Gladys was inflexible. Some might say she wasn’t nice.

 

Many might think Eric Liddell was inflexible, when he wouldn’t run on a Sunday in the 1924 Olympics. (See his story @ http://terimccarthyblahblahblog.com/simple-obedience-is-never-simple/ ).

 

The Prince of Wales requested a meeting with Liddell, known as “The Flying Scotsman.” The Prince made an official appeal to the young athlete to run on a Sunday, “For King and Country.” Biblically, Liddell could have fallen on scripture that tells us to obey kings. Scripturally, Liddell could have compared the race to getting an ox out of the ditch. There were so many ‘almost rights’ in his story, but Liddell was inflexible. Some might say he wasn’t nice. He refused to run on the Sabbath even though it would have brought gold to Great Britain.

 

Later, history demonstrates that the Prince of Wales, Prince Albert, abdicated his throne, abandoned his nation, and resigned his sacred duties to marry an American divorcee and live a life of ease and luxury in the Caribbean and eventually in France. So much for “King and Country.” I wonder if Liddell ever thought of that? Did it ever cross his mind that a man who knew nothing of principles, faithfulness, and obedience had asked Liddell to abandon his?

 

Not on the same scale; not even close, but I too experienced something of this when I was a young missionary in Russia. I returned to the States in the summer of 1992 to do some fundraising, buy some much-needed supplies, and to recruit more teachers for the work in Moscow. Once I arrived in the States, there was a phone call from the office of a TV celebrity Christian asking me if I’d come on the program. The producer said, “He wants to give you the full hour! That never happens. You’ll have the entire hour to tell about your work in the former Soviet Union and it will be great exposure for you.”

 

Without prayer or even thinking it over, I politely declined. I had never been a fan of this TV personality and it would be hypocritical to take advantage of the “exposure” because I truly believed he was both doctrinally and morally unsound.

 

The producer was shocked I said no. He tried once more before we hung up. I thanked him politely and declined again.

 

Honestly, I didn’t give it another thought. I headed down to Texas and spoke to women’s groups, small churches, and anyone who would listen. I explained the need for teachers, for prayer, for funding and told stories of how God was moving on my campus and throughout the city of Moscow.

 

I was staying with my friend Marilu McClellan. I got a phone call at her house. It was another important person involved with the TV show. Again, I said no. Then my former professor called me, moments later, asking me why I was refusing this wonderful opportunity. “Look, you came back to the States to raise money. This would help you do that. Think of the exposure. Your audience would be in the tens of thousands. You want to recruit teachers? THIS will help you do that. I just don’t understand why you are being so…inflexible.”

 

Yes. Inflexible was the word he used. I loved and admired that professor, but there was no way I was going to go on that TV show and now I was more determined than ever not to. I made it back home to Kansas and was piddling around in my parent’s basement when the call came. My Mom was white as a sheet.

 

“Teri, it’s Richard Roberts. He wants to talk to you.” I thought she was joking. I took the phone and sure enough, it was the big TV celebrity himself.

 

“Hello Teresa, this is Richard Roberts. How are you today? I’m calling to give you a personal invitation to be on my show and tell the world (the world?) about what God is doing in Moscow. This will be a great opportunity to raise money, find teachers, and tell everyone what God is doing through you there in Russia. Whaddaya say?”

 

I said no. And the man’s voice went from Karo syrup to vinegar in less than ten seconds.

 

“I don’t think you fully understand the opportunity I’m giving you here, young lady. And I can make your life a living hell if you refuse.”

 

“How?” I asked.

 

“We can withhold your degree for one thing. I’m the president of this university.” He was starting to raise his voice.

 

“I already have my degree in hand,” I explained.

 

“We can mess with your transcripts then, can’t we?” he threatened.

 

A calmness came over me and I knew it was God because I’m not naturally a calm person. “You do what you have to, but I’m not going on that show.” It was final.

 

“Why? Why? Just answer me that!” he asked.

 

“Because if I go on that show and someone who has never liked you or bore witness with you flips through the channels and sees me, they might just pause and say, ‘That girl seems genuine enough. Seems like she’s okay. Maybe old Richard isn’t so bad after all.’ And I’ll lend you credibility—my credibility—and to do that would be sin.”

 

Richard Roberts slammed down the phone.

 

In a day and age when kindness is hailed over principles, when nice is a greater virtue than truth, stands against the popular culture might seem, yes, inflexible. Voddie Baucham says our generation has added an 11th commandment, “Thou shalt always be nice.”

 

But my question is, Is Truth always nice? Was Gladys Aylward nice not to meet with Ingrid Bergman? Was Eric Liddell nice not to run on Sunday? I’m certain Richard Roberts didn’t think I was nice.

 

The Bible speaks very clearly, “Be kind to one another…” “Let your gentleness be known…” These are fruits of the spirit we are told to cultivate in our lives (see Galatians 5).

 

Nice is awesome, but it is not the ultimate virtue. LOVE IS. And love manifests itself in obedience. Even when it’s unpopular.

 

There are times when LOVE doesn’t look so nice. For example, JESUS calling the Pharisees snakes and vipers. Or WILBERFORCE calling Christians who supported slavery, “Servile, and base, and mercenary…”  That’s not a nice thing to say. How about PAUL’s harsh & public criticism of Peter, “But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, for what he did was very wrong…Peter’s hypocrisy led others astray…” (Gal. 2:11-13). Oh my—just a few chapters later, Paul’s telling us to cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit!

 

Along those lines, Jesus spoke often of hell and described hell in very specific terms and spoke directly that a judgment is coming and people will be, “cast into a furnace of fire.” Some might say those weren’t nice words.

 

Perhaps where Gladys Aylward and Eric Liddell are concerned, nice wasn’t their ultimate purpose. Truth was. And I think NICE is best demonstrated when TRUTH is its motive—not benevolence, not a desire to be liked, not even an appearance of being good.  NICE IS THE SERVANT OF TRUTH and TRUTH can sometimes look inflexible. Jesus said, “I’m the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Peace.

 

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56369. Carrie Bradshaw said,
February 13th, 2021 at 7:06 am

Wow. Just wow. Yesterday I worked from home which is dangerous because I have time to think. I daydreamed of suggesting to our church we host a regular VBS this year. All outside, no masks, let the children come and play on the playground and tell them about Jesus love then give them some Goldfish. Sounds so radical that I fear even mentioning it!! Time to grow a backbone and do it. Thanks for the blog.

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56383. admin said,
February 14th, 2021 at 9:49 am

❤❤❤❤

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