Whether sacred or secular, language is powerful. Our principal method of human communication, words have changed history, whether by motivating and inspiring or discouraging and destroying.

Words are also often misused and even misunderstood. The terms “nice” and “kind” come to mind, words we’ve probably heard and said so often that we may instinctually use them interchangeably.

By definition, to be “nice” is generally understood to be agreeable. By contrast, to be “kind” is to be friendly, generous and considerate.

I like to be nice. In fact, to quote the character Frank Burns in the classic television sitcom, “MASH,” “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.” But in a world of shifting values and people desperately trying to normalize abnormality and even abomination, I’d much rather be kind than nice.

Ironically, I was president of the “Nice Squad” in high school, a club spearheaded by Richard Sherman, a popular math teacher at Baldwin High on Long Island. We wore yellow buttons emblazoned with a big smile image. On select days, we played fun and uplifting music out of a boom box in the Commons area. Members were encouraged to smile, be friendly, and, of course, be nice.

But if to be “nice” is to agree and go along with immoral, illogical and heretical philosophies and ideologies, count me out.

I was thinking about this distinction after listening to Dr. Al Mohler on his “Briefing” podcast this morning. He was detailing the unfortunate story that the Washington Elementary School District in Arizona was severing its relationship with Arizona Christian University. For more than eleven years, the college has been a feeder for teacher applicants.

Quoting Laurie Roberts, columnist for The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network, we learn, “It seems the university’s budding educators are simply too Christian to be allowed to teach in the district’s 32 schools.”

There is little doubt that Arizona Christian University administrators have been kind and pleasant with school officials. But the current landscape is shifting dramatically, and with many elites, it no longer matters how nice you are. It matters what you believe.

“We are now observing the closing of the professional ranks in such a way that it is increasingly doubtful that many young Christians are going to be able to enter many of these professions so long as they hold the Christian convictions on any number of things,” observed Dr. Mohler.

Christian organizations like Focus on the Family encounter this reality when it comes to recruitment. I’ve spoken with individuals who have shared their apprehension about being affiliated with a biblically based organization known for its conservative theology. Conversely, I’ve spoken with many more people who have said they wear such scorn as a badge of honor.

As Christians, we’re mandated to be kind, not necessarily nice. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,” writes the apostle Paul, “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). Of course, “kindness” is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).

Developing a spirit of kindness is not achieved by doing random acts, but it’s who we become when we’ve been transformed by Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we can no longer expect the world to warmly welcome us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try and warmly and kindly welcome its people, humbly and boldly extending a hand of fellowship and friendship – in grace and truth – to anyone within our reach.