“Just three?” I asked.
“Just three,” he replied resolutely. “The first is because the person is just nice—genuinely nice. It doesn’t matter the situation, circumstance, or people involved, the person is just all-around nice.”
“I know lots of folks like that,” I said. “At least I think I do.” I poured a little bit of the Redemption Rye into another of my crystal rock glasses on the table and then pushed it toward him. I took a sip of my own and pried, “And the second?”
“The second is only being nice because he wants something from you.”
“Are you implying something?” I asked, half smiling. “I just slid you an untapped whiskey in one of my favorite glasses.”
“Funny, but no.”
“Good. How about the third, then?”
“The third person is only nice because he or she wants to get away from you.”
“What do you mean?”
“He wants you off his trail,” he said and sipped. “And it can be for all kinds of different reasons.”
“Like the person just doesn’t like you and doesn’t want to talk to you. Or maybe the person is hiding something. No one ever suspects the really nice people to have secrets.”
“So, how do we know who’s who in the crowd?”
“You can’t,” he said. “At least not until you’ve been around the person for a long enough while. After a while, people learn which nice you truly are.”
“Well, I think you’re a pretty good guy,” I said and smiled. “I’d be willing to say you’re the first kind of nice.”
“I’d say you are, too,” he said, but only grinning. He was holding something back.
“So, which kind of nice?”
“You’re a pastor,” he said. “You have to be all three.”
I wasn’t ready for the answer he gave, but in hindsight, he’s probably right. At least I think he could be right. I get along pretty well with most people. Hopefully that’s an indication that I’m more or less sourced from some level of genuine niceness. Although, knowing the sinfulness of mankind, most would probably say that about themselves.
Thinking on the second kind of nice, I suppose that in order to accomplish certain things with certain people, the second kind is needed—or as Jesus said in Matthew 10, “Be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.”
But the third kind of nice, that’s a tough one. Still, I think my friend could be right, except that in the case of pastors, it’s an outflow of both the first and second forms of niceness. For example, there are certain folks of which I can definitely say I have no desire to be their best bud. Nevertheless, I don’t treat them any differently in public than the folks I’d be happy to buy a drink. It wouldn’t feel right, and in the end, it would really bother me a lot. I’ve never preferred such low roads in situations of conflict. And yet, beyond all that, I’m a sinful twerp and in need of the same forgiveness all the other sinful twerps need. That truth alone keeps me from getting too bundled up in the guts with past transgressions. To say it another way, I may be the third kind of nice, but it isn’t because I’m trying to hide anything from you. And why wouldn’t I want to hide my past sins? Because from a Christian perspective—and I happen to be a Christian—not even God remembers that stuff. Funny, huh? But it’s true. Jeremiah 31:34 says that when God forgives sin, he remembers it no longer. And in Psalm 103:12, we’re told that when God removes our transgressions, He sets them as far from us as the east is from the west. That’s an impossible distance, one that is completely beyond mortal comprehension, and in my mind, that’s pretty cool.
I suppose if folks want to hide from their own past transgressions, that’s fine, but just know I’m not all that concerned about mine. They’re scars—bad memories. But good or bad, memories are behind not before us. I’ll add that I’d most certainly wonder which of the three kinds of nice you are if you actually allot time in your schedule for digging up other people’s skeletons. It certainly couldn’t be the first kind of nice. It couldn’t be the kind of nice that has any regard for what is the glorious material fueling the core of the word “redemption.” It couldn’t be the kind that travels into and through that core, coming out on the other side delighted by the sunrise of a new day.
It couldn’t be the kind that would move me to willingly share with you a dram of the Redemption Rye edition. I mean, why would I pour this into even the least of honorable vessels for you to enjoy when you haven’t the wherewithal to understand the title on the bottle let alone the gesture that makes it yours? You’d never fully grasp the pleasantness of the straight-wafting rye spices in the nosing. You’d be one less inclined to take hold of the agreeable vanilla streams that lead away from struggle toward a more resilient friendship.
All of this being true, you’d most certainly miss the spiced fruits, coffee, and caramel in the palate that leads to a medium finish that revives the joys discovered in the nose.
And why would you miss all of this? Because you’re being nice to get something from me—namely dirt. You’re savoring my words and working to draw out something you might use against me later. That’s the vilest form of niceness, and rest assured, I know what it looks like. Which means I’d be more than ready for you. Which also means that I’d watch every one of my words carefully, maybe even throwing out a few misdirects to let you feel as though you’re getting something. But in the end, and unbeknownst to you, I’d have poured you a glass of Scoresby and not the Redemption Rye. I’d only give this dandy little gem to a friend.