Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful Again

Why are we thankful? When we have nothing (absolutely nothing) and we are suddenly presented with what we are not entitled and which we don’t deserve… aren’t we most thankful in that moment? I heard the average American consumes over 5000 calories at the Thanksgiving meal. We have so much… we have historically enjoyed so much… we’re so fat, dumb and happy in our affluence that we often enter this holiday season without thought to the original gratitude of the first Thanksgiving.

So I think back to that original feast, a celebration by Christians humbled before the gifts of their God and neighbors. Physically, they found their needs being met. They weren’t entitled to it, and in the understanding of their great need, they found themselves in grateful abundance.

I confess that spiritually, I tend to forget my great need. God has given me so much: pulled me from death into life, placing a crown upon my head in promise to the great inheritance I have as an adopted son of God. He has given me that which I didn’t deserve, the very definition of “grace”. What is the right response to this great love? Shouldn’t it be gratefulness and love? Shouldn’t we desire to reflect the values of this new family?

But in our zeal and misunderstanding, representatives of the Kingdom may seek to uphold the law of God rather than the face of God, spitting out hateful accusations against all violators. This is Christian legalism. The legalist forgets God’s Christmas message: Peace and good will to men! God wants a relationship with us, despite our wanderings and warring, rebellious ways. He offers us grace, motivated by His great love for us.

But this grace can be misrepresented as well. Although His grace is greater than all our sins (past, present and future), this grace is not a license to sin. Sin has consequences.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
Perhaps the word “sin” could be better understood as “unhealthy behavior”. Unhealthy behavior leads to undesirable consequences, and while God continues to work out everything for our good, it’s so much better when we join Him in the process rather than resisting Him like a rebellious child. In our rebelliousness, we tend to get enmeshed with things that seek to replace God in our lives, vying for our affections. And sadly, when we devalue the love He has shown us, this cheap grace infects others with a similar rebelliousness, failing to represent the nobility of our new family.

Christian legalism spits out hateful accusations.

Cheap grace ignores the unhealthy consequences of sin.

But authentic Christianity responds to God’s love with a desire to represent Him well.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
As children of God, we are above the law, but if we seek to live out Kingdom values, then the truth of the law is seen through our lives. So if I am aware of my own great need and how much I’ve undeservedly been given, I will represent my heavenly family well: with a noble grace that is extended to everyone I meet, grateful that He has empowered me to embody the Kingdom.

Peace and good will to everyone this holiday season!

copyright ©2012 Mitchell Malloy (