By Scott Allen (…continued)
Transforming truth No. 3: Gratitude, not resentfulness, leads to life and flourishing
Gratitude— thankfulness— is a bedrock virtue for a good reason. It reminds us that we are contingent, dependent creatures. It diminishes pride, the most deadly of sins. We are all dependent on God for our very lives, for every breath we take. We are dependent on one another— on our families, nations, and forebears. We rightly acknowledge this dependence and express gratitude for all we’ve been given.
Today, there is a great deal of effort, money, and organization going into activities aimed at stirring up resentment, bitterness, and a sense of victimization among different groups. Sensitivity to even small slights or “microaggressions” is not only accepted but also encouraged.
The focus here is never internal— on my own vices and shortcomings, on getting the log out of my own eye. Rather, the focus is entirely external— on the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of others. We are increasingly quick to disparage people based on their group identity. We cast derisive labels their way: bigot, hater, racist, sexist. Evil is always over there, not in here. I’m the victim. I’m offended. My feelings are hurt. I’m mistreated. It’s all about me.
In a fallen world, there is no shortage of injustice and oppression. It is real, and it must be carefully identified and fought against. However, to focus only on the bad things, real or perceived, that others do to us— to elevate our sense of victimhood into a kind of perverse virtue— is a move in a very dangerous direction, one that will tear our country apart.
In a fallen world, there is no shortage of injustice and oppression.
How ironic that the Ku Klux Klan and Black Lives Matter have many of these things in common. They both traffic in a racialized ideology. They both fixate on their status as victims, convinced they are being “targeted for genocide.” They both foster resentment, bitterness, and hatred toward the other. They both tacitly endorse violence. They both see themselves as a vanguard and invite us to follow their lead, but where will they take us? To a very, very dark place. Consider South Sudan, the Rwandan genocide, or the Balkans. That is where this road of bitterness, resentfulness, victimization, and scapegoating leads. It is a mindset straight from the pit, and those who foster it, intentionally or otherwise, are enemies of all that is good, true, and beautiful.
No, we must never succumb to such thinking. We must choose the more excellent way by nurturing hearts of gratitude rooted in humility and awareness of our own sinfulness and dependence on others. We must first get the log out of our own eye before we attempt to help others deal with their shortcomings.
These are all transforming truths of the Biblical worldview. When applied in families, churches, communities, and nations, they lead to joy, freedom, and flourishing. When we move away from them in any direction, as we are today, we choose division, hatred, and violence.
We, as followers of Jesus Christ, are ambassadors of His Kingdom. We are to be salt and light. We must have the courage to champion these truths now more than ever. It won’t be easy. These are increasingly unpopular ideas. We must be prepared to be misunderstood, mischaracterized, or worse.
Some will be tempted to filter Scripture, whether knowingly or not, to conform to the toxic, non-Biblical ideologies that are growing stronger in our culture each day. Perhaps motivated by a desire for cultural relevance, or a need for acceptance by the right people, they fall into the trap of accommodating Christianity to popular cultural trends. We must never allow the culture to determine what Scripture says, but rather we must allow Scripture to prophetically critique the culture.
Some will be tempted to keep their heads down, lie low, ignore the problem, or even retreat; but if we want to be obedient to our mandate to love our neighbor and work for the common good, apathy, silence, and retreat aren’t options.
We are stewards of God’s powerful transforming truths. God has entrusted us with these truths not for our own benefit, but for the good of our communities and our nation. If we fail to cherish, embody, and champion these truths, who else will? This is our time. Let us not shrink from it.
I John 1:8-9 — If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Matthew 7:3-5 — (Jesus said), “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Psalm 103:2 — Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
Psalm 103:6 — The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
Almighty God, have mercy on all that bear me any evil will, or would want to harm me. Amend their faults and mine together by such tender and merciful means as your infinite wisdom can best devise. Make us saved souls in heaven together where we may ever live with you and all your saints. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
–St. Thomas More (1478-1535)