Part 6 of 6 in the series Concise Theology:
- Thanks: Spiritual Maturity
- Wise Risk: Faith
- He’s Worth It: Worship
- Open to God: Holiness
- Make Us Like Jesus: Discipleship
- God Loves Us Like Jesus: The Gospel
In the research behind Cultivating Christian Character, Michael Zigarelli identifies gratitude as the “master virtue” which enables all the fruits of the spirit. In particular, what Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts calls the “hard eucharist” — the ability to thank God for everything, even suffering and tragedy –appears essential to consistently responding with Christ-like character.
I would go so far as to say the single best measure of our spiritual maturity is the breadth and depth of circumstances we can respond to with “thanks.” In my messy, stumbling attempts to grow in wisdom over the decades, the one monotonic increase I have observed is how God demonstrates His redemptive presence over more and more of my past, including areas that once were only sources of bitterness and regret. Even secular scientists have also stumbled onto the power of gratitude as the most reliable source of happiness!
Too often, I fear our theological education creates a tendency towards fear and division, as we bemoan how our opponents on the right or left have corrupted the gospel; and worse, are winning the war of ideas! What if we instead rejoiced like Paul does, giving thanks for everyone who is doing their best to preach the gospel, however imperfectly they understand it? What if we also gave thanks for our political opponents, whose critiques help us to refine and clarify our own beliefs?
Such generosity would not only be good for our soul, but far more winsome to a watching world than hard-nosed criticism that smacks of self-righteousness.
So if you find this audacious exercise into rethinking the gospel helpful, give thanks! On the other hand, if you find it lacking, I give thanks in advance fof your thoughtful criticism.
October 2, 2016
Santa Clara, CA