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Column: The country needs more Minnesota (but not too much)

'True niceness is showing your love for God by living according to His design, and then encouraging others to do the same.'

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Chad Werkhoven

Traffic moves pretty smoothly ‘round here. That is, until four Minnesotans show up simultaneously at a four-way intersection.

The resulting display of Minnesota niceness can gridlock traffic for hours, as each driver kindly defers to the others by mouthing the words, “you go first.” When archeologists sift through the remains of our culture, they’ll likely be perplexed why they find so many sets of skeletal hands held up politely waving each other on.

The friendly attitude so many Minnesotans have in their willingness to yield is one of the things that attracted our family to move here from the west coast. In this respect, our country needs more Minnesota.

Unfortunately, our society increasingly defines niceness based on how much a person yields to ideas, attitudes and behaviors different from their own. Certainly there’s beauty in a nation willing to tolerate differing drum beats, and that beauty is often on display here in Minnesota.

But there’s a point where tolerance goes from being nice to being negative. For example, it’s never nice to tolerate the self-destructive behavior of a close friend or relative. It’s never nice to allow children to continue an activity that will harm them.

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We don’t need to wonder where that point is. We are children of the one and only sovereign God, the creator of all things, whose very being defines what is right. God gave us His law, not to intolerantly browbeat us into submission, but rather as a guide for us to live a genuinely good life in which we glorify Him for the salvation He’s given us.

Our constitution wisely considers all worldviews as equally legal, but this does not mean that all worldviews are equally valid. When we yield to ungodly behavior, we’re not being nice. Rather, we’re politely waving people on to consequences that will harm them, both in this life now, and the life to come. Nice people don't do that.

The Apostle John instructed us on how we can truly love others, and it stands in stark contrast to the 'tolerate everything' philosophy that dominates our society. The best way to love others, writes John, “is to love God and carry out His commands (1 John 5:2).”

In other words, true niceness is showing your love for God by living according to His design, and then encouraging others to do the same. True niceness is showing love to our neighbors by showing them both the love and the laws of the God who designed and created them in His image.

Keep being Minnesota-nice. Our country needs an infusion of it. But this doesn’t mean deferring to every deviant behavior the way we defer to other drivers at an intersection. Follow John’s advice to love others by loving God and keeping His commands.

By the way, it’s easy to recognize me driving around town. I’m the guy who actually goes when you wave me on at the stop sign. Thanks!

Chad Werkhoven is pastor at Worthington Christian Reformed Church.

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