“Be nice to your sister,” my mom would exclaim! I’ve no idea how many times I heard that in my early years, but it was likely a considerable number. Be nice, act right, play nice. It was a lesson reinforced in kindergarten and grade school as my peers and I were being taught some measure of manners and politeness. We were being schooled in which behaviors were socially acceptable, but our attitudes did not usually match our behavior.

Kindness is much better than niceness. Kindness is an outpouring of love, mercy, and compassion toward others, but niceness is merely a behavior that doesn’t require sincerity. To act nice, we merely must treat other people in socially acceptable ways. But to be kind to other people requires that we genuinely care for them. And if we genuinely care for someone, sometimes kindness will require that we love them enough to tell them hard truths. Niceness would simply ignore the opportunity to challenge another person to truly better them. Politeness might smile and gloss over another person’s folly or error, but kindness cannot remain kind if it is merely nice or polite. Love cannot simply ignore danger and suffering. Mercy cannot remain mercy if it is not genuinely offered in the form of whatever help is needed. Compassion cannot be compassionate if it refuses to identify with the other person and come alongside them in beneficial ways.

God calls Christian believers to manifest the fruit of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23 New International Version, we read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Take note that each item in the list is beneficial both to the person exhibiting the fruit and to the people who experience it as an expression of authentic care from that person. That is the way God’s transforming power works in our lives. First, those works improve the bearer and then they bless the receiver.

None of these elements can be true to their inherent nature unless they are sincere essential attitudes of the heart that express themselves in action for the good of others around us. I remember a time when many folks kept fake fruit in a basket on their tables. It looked like apples, oranges, bananas, pears, and grapes, but it was hollow, colored plastic. Likewise, people can fake the appearance of spiritual fruit, but no one is ever nourished by such hypocrisy. But, oh, how sweet and refreshing it is to taste and see the goodness of God expressed through transformed Christian lives. These qualities are produced by genuinely living by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus commanded us to love one another as He has loved us. His was a fully committed and fully immersed life and death kind of love. Does our Christian love look like, feel like, smell like, taste like, and nourish like His? Are you settling for nice and polite, or are you cooperating with God’s Holy Spirit so that you are sprouting love, kindness, joy, patience, peace, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control? The way to tell is to evaluate your attitude. Is that which is inside you a true match for what you are expressing on the outside? Don’t settle for hollow fake fruit!

Contact Pastor Lamb at icumc@yahoo.com.