I realize that if you live in North America, you're somewhere just after, or just before, the big Thanksgiving holiday. However, I was just meditating this morning on a passage in Romans 1 that addresses the critical link between gratitude and relationship, revelation, wholeness, calling, and so felt it worth sharing. Here are some observations from the text:
1. ingratitude is the headwaters of the stream that, if left unchecked will become a mighty river of destructive maladies, leading us to hurt ourselves, those we love, our enemies, and our earth. If I fail to acknowledge and thank God for the goodness that is all around me, I'm part of that ugly stream.
2. gratitude can and should range from the mundane (this coffee I had this morning, French Press, Trader Joe's organic fair trade, was remarkable, especially as the sky was growing light) to the profound (that Christ would love me in my ignorance, rebellion and sin, and that such love would find expression in the depths of suffering on the cross...no words!).
3. Our task oriented, driven natures, provide little time for gratitude. We consume without tasting, travel without seeing, converse without hearing, read our Bibles without pondering, worship without encountering, all because we're rushing to the next thing. Our Buddhist friends who invite us to learn how to be fully present in each moment are providing us a portal through which true gratitude can find expression. Only then will we escape the mighty river of destruction.
4. The litany of sins addressed here has often been preached and taught through a deeply distorted lens. With this distorted lens, sexual sins, particularly those of homosexuals, are elevated to a higher sin status than other sins. (no matter your view of homosexuality, all who take the scriptures seriously must agree that casual and promiscuous sex in any form, heterosexual or homosexual, is a departure from God's plan. Many think that Paul's concerns in Romans 1 are solely such promiscuous sexual liaisons, which were so typical of his day) But look! We're also told that ingratitude, because it places us in this destructive river, leads to other things too: greed, envy, strife, deceit, arrogance, gossip, and lack of mercy are just a few. WHY THEN, are these things so rarely addressed with the same scathing indictment as sexual sins?
5. Like the other recent entry, any discussion about the ethics of homosexuality in this blog entry misses the point. I've spoken on the subject and will try to get that mp3 posted here within a few days, so you can podcast it. But I kind of hope you don't, because for many evangelicals, that issue is the speck that's preventing us from dealing with the log. Instead of pondering sexual ethics... think about the extent to which greed (are we all tithing, all caring for the poor, all living w/in our means?), envy (are we all immune from advertising, impulse shopping, body image issues), strife (are our relationships consistently characterized by honesty, humility, forgiveness and truth telling? Is there no divorce among us?), gossip ("I heard someone gossiping just the other day, and they have a bad marriage... let's pray for them right now, poor things, and she with her weight issues and all...blah blah blah") are present in our midst, and yes, in our own lives and hearts. Jesus is writing in the dirt, inviting us ALL to repentance.
6. Viewing the text through this more holistic lens, rather than fixating on sexual ethics, perhaps we all can see our need for repentance. I know I can. But what's vital is that I not simply repent of my 'presenting problem', but that I cultivate a heart that is aware of God's glory all around me, and then become active in my expressions of gratitude.