You might read the title of this post and assume that I was implying that gratitude was a bad thing. But that would be because you might assume that weakness was a bad thing. Actually I am saying the opposite of both. Gratitude is a good thing because weakness is a good thing.
Most of our relational civilities are built upon the assumption that it is safe to be weak in trusted relationships. Whenever we say, “Thank you… I like… that was nice… would you… please… excuse me… yes sir, etc…” we are making ourselves vulnerable to a harsh response. The other person could say, “You better say thank you… I don’t like… don’t expect it again… who do you think I am… No!” or ignore us.
Beyond a harsh response, we also are declaring the other person as worthy of honor. Kings and Queens stand for the presence of no one and have no need of the words “Thank you.” When we are grateful we are declaring I am not a king or queen. When we are grateful with a glad heart we are saying that we do not have to be a king or queen in order to be safe or secure.
With this in mind, consider Jesus’ words in Mark 9:35:
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
The problem with being a king or queen is that everyone is a threat to your position. There can be only one king or queen (unless you live in a fantasy world like Narnia, of course). In the norm
al scope of thing being “first” is lonely and unsafe.
It is only in the kingdom of God that being first can be shared and safe. In heaven, where competition will be eliminated, gratitude will be natural because strength will be irrelevant. We are invited to begin living that way now. We are encouraged to pray that this would be more common in the Lord’s Prayer:
“Your will be done one earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10b).”
When we conduct our homes, friendship, and workplaces in a manner that makes strength irrelevant and gratitude natural, we are making those environments more “heavenly.” Unfortunately, in our fallen world this often takes great courage and sometimes results in suffering.
However, when this happens let us resist the temptation to envy the powerful person who has made gratitude unnatural. Rather, let us pity this person as being trapped in a relational world that requires strength in order to be safe. Our compassion will likely increase their anger (at least at first) because receiving compassion (another relational civility) requires admitting weakness.
As their anger increases, so will their conviction (Heb 11:7). But we must remember than while we do not succumb to the false gospel of their anger (“strength will deliver me”), we are not a slave to their demanding (Rom 12:17-18 implies we can walk away when things are unreasonable).
Our goal, however, is to live in the safety of the gospel as an open invitation to those around us and to be able to echo the words of Paul in II Corinthians 12:9 at all times:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.”