PC: You write, “The person who is always nice, always decorous, always even-keeled is likely a person who ultimately does not care about what God cares about" (page 69). Mark, you just described what I’ve been told is the spiritual giant in most churches, the Ideal Christian Man. Something doesn’t add up. What is it?
MG: Many Christians are confused about the Ideal Christian Man because they take their cues from the culture, and not primarily from Scripture. Thus, some think the Ideal Christian Man is a conservative ethical businessman who climbs the corporate ladder and takes care of his family financially and who goes to his kids' soccer games. For others, he is a male version of a nurturing mother. And on it goes. The Ideal Christian Man, however, should increasingly look like Jesus, and as I outline in my book, Jesus is much more dynamic that our cultural stereotypes allow men to be.
PC: Do some people believe in the Gospel of Nice in order to hide from the real nature of God?
MG: Probably. Whenever we find ourselves saying, “A loving God wouldn’t do X,” or “God would never disapprove of Y,” we may want to think a little harder. Such statements often reveal more about what we wish was true — because if it were, it would make our life that much easier. Meeting the real God is more dangerous and exhilarating than we’ve been led to believe. But meeting the real God means letting go of the old one; it means you are no longer in charge of your faith. It’s scary to get to know this God. But it’s also life’s greatest adventure.
PC: Why is it that love is capable of making enemies, which is the name of one of your chapters? What does this tell us about the true nature of love?
MG: One thing love must do is speak the truth. And many people “can’t handle the truth,” as a famous movie line puts it. The truth makes them examine some behavior in their life, or some belief they might have to abandon. They know if they admit this truth, they’ll have to change. And most of us don’t like change. I know I don’t.
Paul Coughlin is a former newspaper editor and author of No More Christian Nice Guy and its companion study guide. He speaks internationally about the Christian Nice Guy problem and also provides individual instruction on how to overcome it. He and his wife Sandy wrote Married But Not Engaged, which helps wives of passive and checked out husbands better understand them and how best to create a better marriage.