When we moved to the Twin Cities, we first heard this phrase, "Minnesota Nice." Wikipedia defines it as "the stereotypical behavior of people born and raised in Minnesota to be courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered." This is the culture we live.In meditating on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I understand that Jesus calls us to be different than the culture we are surrounded; to create a new culture superior to (even) "Minnesota Nice." The bar has been raised for those who receive Jesus' gift of salvation.
You have heard it was said, [You shall not murder...commit adultery...divorce...take an oath...retaliate...]"You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends the rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You must therefore be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48The norm of the culture may be "nice", but (like anywhere in the United States) it's centered on me, me, me and watching the news, it's pretty common for me to complain, complain, complain. But Jesus calls us to create a better culture. He calls us to a different standard; a standard of excellence.
All summer long, I feel like a broken record, "Girls, we're not going for perfection or quick and sloppy, we're aiming for doing our best: excellence." Sure, it would be easier and even "nice" to throw your dishes on the kitchen counter, but excellent to load them in the dishwasher and start the wash cycle. I want to train them to create a better culture that thinks beyond what's easiest and best for me.
Though we live mostly among a people that have yet to receive Jesus' call of excellence, we're still called to excellence. To love them more than expected; to be more than "nice." We need to constantly be asking Jesus, how can we love better, serve more, give more, meet a need, go beyond an expectation, make it less about me?
English theologian Matthew Henry in his commentary on Matthew 5 wrote, "It is the duty of Christians to desire, and aim at, and press toward a perfection in grace and holiness, Philippians 3:12-14. And therein we must study to conform ourselves to the example of our heavenly Father, 1 Peter 1:15, 16."
Truth is, I can't love others perfectly but I am loved perfectly. I will mess up, say the wrong thing; have the wrong motives; step on someone's toes when I'm trying to be helpful, but God loves me perfectly and calls me to be like Him. I will miss the mark. I could not even try, I can't do it perfectly anyway, but Jesus says, Be different. Aim for Me. Look to Me and let Me work through you.
Am I creating a culture where I'm continually asking myself what can I do for others? How can I do whatever is on my task list with excellence? God has done much for us and by creating a better culture than the "nice" one in which we live. I can show my world a snippet of what God looks like, for His glory.
...let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16I have a friend who encourages us on fast days by saying, "Ladies, this is a get to." What a privilege to get to be more than "Minnesota Nice." To love, serve and invite others into our lives with excellence.
How is Jesus calling you today to go beyond the culture of nice? Thank Him that you get to do more than others.