This is the season of Thanksgiving. Our thoughts quickly turn to our blessings: our family and friends, our homes, jobs, food on the table, peace and safety. I am thankful for the seasonal reminder of the importance not just of giving thanks, but also of being a thankful person. I have so much for which to be thankful.
From a Biblical perspective, few characters represent the giving of thanks as well as the Apostle Paul. Paul continually gives thanks, in hard times more than good. In his letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 11:1), Paul urges believers to imitate him as he imitates Christ. One way we can do that is to imitate Paul in his giving of thanks. I believe there is a rich component of thanksgiving that Paul understood better than many of us. One of the most noticeable features of many of Paul’s letters is not just the giving of thanks, but the giving of thanks for those who would receive his letter. Even in the midst of conflict with them, even as these immature believers required correction, he gave thanks for them.
As we count our blessings and stoke the fire of gratitude this holiday season, I would like to invite all of us to pause and include one another in our prayers of praise. In our frantic and fragmented world, it is easy to overlook the quiet folks with whom we worship week after week; it can be almost automatic to regard with anger or impatience those with whom we have had conflict or less than satisfying ministry partnerships. To be sure, we are sinners, and the continual need for forgiveness is great. I am not suggesting that we ignore our need to pursue confession, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. But even as we do that, let us consider one another as unique creations of our Lord, heirs of the kingdom with us, and worthy of appreciation.
If we follow Paul as our thanksgiving model, we will thank God for one another and make that thanksgiving known to the body. We can get extra “mileage” from our thanksgiving by thanking God and sharing our thanksgiving with others. We then reap the multiplied blessing of offering thanks to God and encouraging one another. And, like so many Biblical activities, it becomes contagious. We grow from being a body with thankful members to a thankful body. And that will require yet another helping of thanksgiving….