Those two things aren't the same you know. But often we forget that. Especially as we try to live in community. I mean, think about it - what helps our Christian communities function?
Surely we get along because we all play nice, right? Empowered by the gospel of course. We have to add that caveat. But now that it's added we settle down to the real glue for any community: being nice. When people are nice, communities flourish. When people are not nice communities fall apart. This is obvious.
Just look at Colossians 3:12
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Yep. See? Be nice. Be nice and everyone will get along. Cover over all that nastiness with sweetness. Or polite reserve. Or effusive flattery. Whatever you do, don't be nasty. The minute someone's nasty, it's over.
Well that would be the case if we were a part of any natural community. What did Jesus say? Pagans love those who love them. (Matt 5:46-47). You don't need the Holy Spirit to do that. You don't need the supernatural grace of God. You don't need a new heart of flesh to be nice.
So what's going to mark supernatural communities?
Look at how Colossians 3 continues...
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col 3:13)
Natural communities don't have this. At the first hint of nastiness, natural community fractures. But for Christians nastiness is an opportunity. Here's where we truly show ourselves to be the people of Jesus. We forgive.
Many people think nastiness ends Christian community. The gospel says nastiness is where Christian community begins.
What about blogging? A million blogs can be nice. It doesn't make them Christian. Now may Jesus deliver us from nasty Christian blogs. Please Lord! But niceness is not the cure. Many may think they have a Christian blog because everyone is nice. That doesn't make it Christian. It's Christian if Christ is the glue. It's Christian if Christ in us answers nastiness for the sake of Christ and in the way of Christ.
We wouldn't dream of getting right with our Father without going through the Mediator. We wouldn't dream of being nice enough for Him. But we always assume that when we turn to family relations, the Mediator is surplus to requirements. We imagine that we need Jesus for God but we need niceness for our brother. How many Christian books on marriage, for instance, trumpet "communication" as the key to a good marriage! But that's just a gospel of works for community living. No we need Jesus for God and neighbour. Because we're not nice. We're just not. And communities that run on niceness haven't begun to be Christian. Inject some nastiness, then we'll see if they're Christian.