What makes Thanksgiving difficult for you this year? Are you dealing with grief over the loss of a loved one? Challenges in your health, family, or finances? Guilt over the past or fear of the future? In collating gratitude with suffering, we have four logical options we can view as a Thanksgiving spectrum.
As our society continues its post-Christian slide into secularism, holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas have become secularized as well. One can go the entire Christmas season without seeing a mention of Christ’s birth in secular culture; Thanksgiving has become far less about gratitude to God and far more about football and feasting. Thus we should not be surprised when even gratitude becomes generically secularized. But we should not overlook the illogic of this trajectory nor the power of thanksgiving when it is properly directed.
Transactional religion, from the Greco-Roman world to today, treats God’s word and power as instruments to be used for our purposes. We need to measure the news and everything else we experience in this fallen world through the prism of God’s unchanging, authoritative, completely true word. We need to read, pray, and worship for God’s glory rather than our own, to live for his honor above our own, to commune with our Creator for no reason except to be with our Father, to love our Lord and our neighbor for their sakes rather than ours. Anything less makes the King of the universe a means to our end. This is idolatry, and it is dangerous.
The more we experience God’s transforming love, the more we will be empowered and motivated to share it with every person we can. And the more we will love them as we are loved. Imagine the difference it would make in the world if Christians were known for loving others as God loves us.
It is conventional wisdom today that all truth is personal and subjective. As a result, sharing Christ in public is viewed as the imposition of our beliefs on others. This view of truth extends especially to the claim that non-Christians need to trust Christ to escape hell for heaven (Acts 4:12). Such a claim is increasingly seen as intolerant in the extreme, a view that is affecting and infecting Christians as well as the larger secular culture.
Paul celebrated “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). From the Garden of Eden to today, you and I were made for intimacy with our Maker. We were created in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:27) so we could know him and make him known to others.
When we yield to temptation, we don’t want others to know it. We want to maintain the façade of external godliness. It's like we are living under a false identity, projecting an image to the world that is untrue to our real selves. And we think we are getting away with our “private” sin. So long as no one sees our hidden sins, no one needs to know. But Someone does.
If we will pray for boldness to stand courageously and compassionately for biblical morality, our Lord will always answer our prayers (cf. Acts 4:29-31). If we will ask the Spirit to help us use our influence to lead others to truth and transformation in Christ, he will empower and employ us in ways we may not fully understand on this side of eternity (1 Corinthians 13:12).