1418) Living With Ingratitude

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In these quotes taken from an anthology of quotes by Martin Luther (What Luther Says, volume 3,  Concordia), Luther teaches us to learn to live with ingratitude.

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     To learn to be thankful is not enough; we must also get used to exercising the virtue of bearing up under ingratitude.  This virtue belongs to God alone and to real Christians…  Learn this lesson, then.  Let him who would be a Christian be prepared to earn ingratitude with all his benefactions, faithfulness, and service; and let him beware lest he be moved thereby no longer to serve and help others.  For one of the Christian virtues and a real fruit of faith consists in your saying, when people give you a dirty deal after you have done your best:  “No, you will not get me angry and disgruntled by your conduct.  I will put up with it and nevertheless help wherever I can.  Will you be unthankful?  I know One in heaven above us who will thank me in your stead.  His thanks will be more pleasing to me than yours.”  This is maintaining a Christian attitude.  But you will not be able to learn this art from the world.  It does the very opposite.  (#4555)

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     We must live among ungrateful people, but we should not take offense and cease to do good on that account.  On the contrary, we should continually do good and pay no attention to the poor thanks we reap– just as God lets His sun rise daily on both the grateful and the ungrateful  (Matthew 5:45).

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     For if you do good in order to earn the gratitude and applause of the world, you will find the very opposite.  Now if you grow very angry, want to wreck everything, and are determined to do no more good, you are no longer a Christian.  You harm yourself and accomplish nothing.  Can you not remember where your real and eternal home lies, and that for now you are living in a world which is bound to be full of vice and ingratitude?…  It requires no skill to live with the pious only and to do good to them, but it does require ability to associate with the wicked without becoming wicked yourself.    (#4556)

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Psalm 35:12 — They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn.

Ecclesiastes 9:14-15 — There was once a small city with only a few people in it.  And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it.  Now there lived in that city a man poor, but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.  But nobody remembered that poor man.

Jeremiah 18:19-20 — Listen to me, O Lord; hear what my accusers are saying.  Should good be repaid with evil?  Yet they have dug a pit for me.  Remember that I stood before you and spoke in their behalf to turn your wrath away from them.

Luke 17:11-19 — Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.  As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him.  They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”  And as they went, they were cleansed.  One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.  Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Matthew 5:45 — He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

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     O Father and God of all comfort, grant us by your Word, a firm, happy, and grateful faith, by which we may readily overcome this and every trial, and at length realize that it is the truth when your Son, Jesus Christ says: “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”  Amen.  

–Martin Luther

1314) Character Building

 Building character (from Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson):

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     It is only in the heat of pain and suffering, both mental and physical, that real human character is forged.  One does not develop courage without facing danger, patience without trials, wisdom without heart-and brain-racking puzzles, endurance without suffering, or temperance and honesty without temptations.  These are the very things we treasure most about people.  Ask yourself if you would be willing to be devoid of all these virtues.  If your answer is no, then don’t scorn the means of obtaining them.  The gold of human character is dug from torturous mines, but its dung and dirt are quite easily come by.  And it should come as no surprise to us that in our time— the time of the great flight from pain— such virtues as these are conspicuous only by their absence.

     I’m not saying that we should go looking for pain, so that we can develop character.  This is not at all necessary.  All we need to do is make an honest and thorough effort to discover what is right and wrong, good and bad, and, when we are convinced on these points, then simply go out and face life for what it is worth.  There will be plenty of opportunity to develop character.  But you will never develop character by running from unpleasant situations, any more than you will develop your intellectual capacities by running away from study, or tone up your muscles by avoiding exercise.

–By Dallas Willard (1935-2013), in Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews, and Talks, edited by Gary Black, Jr., 2016

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Psalm 119:67  —  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.

Romans 5:3b-5  —   We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Job 36:15  —  But those who suffer, God delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.

II Corinthians 4:17  —   For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

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Help me, O Lord, to make a true use of all disappointments and calamities in this life, in such a way that they may unite my heart more closely with you.  Cause them to separate my affections from worldly things and inspire my soul with more vigor in the pursuit of true happiness.  Amen.

 –Susanna Wesley (1669-1742), mother of John and Charles Wesley and 17 other children

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