Gratitude is powerful. It is not just social politeness, and it doesn’t just make a difference in the person to whom thanks is being given. Gratitude does even more for the person who lives it.
Famed preacher Fred Craddock says this of gratitude: “Of all the virtues available to the Christian, gratitude is chief. I have never known anybody grateful who was at the same time small, sniping, bitter, judgmental, unloving. Gratitude just is it. I commend it.” (DisciplesNet video).
When one thinks of a loving person, that person can probably be called grateful. That person is not always wanting something more. That person is simply there, loving, grateful for whatever abundance she can measure.
This is not the time to look at others and think, “Well if only that person had an attitude of gratitude, he would be a better person!” No. As Jesus said, start with the log in your own eye. It is not time to look at your neighbor to see what he or she needs to fix. It is time to look at yourself, and approach God with an attitude of gratitude.
When we are grateful for what we have in our lives, we can approach others with forgiveness rather than resentment.
Thomas Keating puts it another way when he speaks on the concept of nonviolence. He says that “Nonviolence …means to show love tirelessly, no matter what happens. That’s the meaning of turning the other cheek. Once in a while you have to defend somebody, but it means you’re always willing to suffer first for the cause—that is to say, for communion with your enemies. If you overcome your enemies, you’ve failed. If you make your enemies your partners, God has succeeded” (quoted here).
That last sentence is potentially life-changing. If you overcome your enemies, you have failed. If you make your enemies your partners, God has succeeded.
The journey of Christian life is not to overcome the world. God has already done that. Our journey is to make God’s love the center of everything in our lives. That means that we do not have to overcome our enemies; it means that we have to love our enemies. We have to make our enemies our partners.
We do that through gratitude. Gratitude is what reconciled the Samaritan leper, and gratitude is what will reconcile our world.
p.s. For more about the Reconciliation Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), click here.