How Thanksgiving Disrupts the Status Quo

If you read your Bible from the beginning, you quickly learn that things aren’t the way they were intended. By the third chapter of Genesis, the first humans have upset the divine order (Gen. 3:22–24). Within one generation, the earth has been introduced to murder (Gen. 4:8). And by the sixth chapter, God’s ready to destroy humanity and start over. The rest of the Old Testament is an honest, brutal, and unflinching look at the fallout of humanity’s rebellion.

The New Testament kicks off with a pregnant teenager ushering in God’s plan to redeem a mutinous creation. Her child, Jesus, brings the kingdom of God near to us and swings redemption’s door wide open.

His death, resurrection, and Spirit-filled equipping of the church ignited His divine strategy to infiltrate the entire world with good news.

Life in the Interim

As we toil with Christ to reconcile all things to Himself, we’re living in the interim between what has been and what is coming. We’re nearing the end of a long winter, and though we can see the early buds of spring, our environment can still be pretty bleak.

It’s not pessimistic or cynical to admit that life can be a struggle, and bad news is often right around the corner. As Paul Simon so eloquently put it in 1973’s American Tune:

“I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered.
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease.
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered.
Or driven to its knees.”

It can be a challenge to carry a message of hope to a world that can’t even comprehend such a promise. C.S. Lewis was right when he said that the mass of humanity is “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”

Not only is the promise of Christ’s kingdom a challenge to communicate, it can be a hard one for us to consistently believe. As we struggle through the frigidity of daily challenges, we struggle to place our faith in an eternal summer.

The Defiance of Hope

As we embrace the season of Thanksgiving, we’re reminded that gratitude is a truly counter-cultural act. Even on the day of the year set aside to express our thankfulness, many struggle with the awkwardness of sitting around a table and vocalizing the blessings in their lives.

Living as if the kingdom of God is fully present and apparent is our true act of rebellion. In defiance of our experience, we are called to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

The church is called to see the movement of God’s provision beyond the obvious. We can give thanks in all circumstances because we see the most difficult situations through the eyes of faith. But this revolution goes beyond thanksgiving. Through faith we:

  • Practice generosity in the face of greed
  • Return blessings for curses
  • Show patience to a harried world
  • Extend grace to a performance-oriented society
  • Express joy in tragic culture

When we live out the character of God’s kingdom in the midst of a civilization that runs so contrary to spiritual fruits (Gal. 5:22-23), we paint a picture of the kingdom that’s accessible to the people we’re trying to reach. It’s a picture of life that the world yearns for.

Thankfulness is more than a quaint and sentimental expression. It’s a thrown gauntlet. A challenge to the status quo. It’s a brazen defiance to experience that says, “I see the reality beyond you.”

Strengthening Our Resolve

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
—Colossians 3:16

Our declaration of gratitude is more than a message to the world. It is a profound reminder to each other. Living out these qualities in the midst of a dark and dangerous world puts us in a vulnerable position—sheep among wolves. Expressing our thankfulness to each other reminds us that we are more than conquerors.

Paul’s encouragement to the Colossians is a powerful reminder that Christ’s words are truly internalized as we give voice to them (through teaching and artistic expression) in a way that communicates our thankfulness. Our gratefulness is a reminder to shrug off hopelessness and despair and embrace the truth that God is at work, even in our darkest moments.

Thanksgiving is so much more than a celebration of family and starchy foods, it is a defiant act of resistance—a revolution of hope.

More Resources

Learn more about what the Bible says on thankfulness with 20 Bible Verses on Gratitude and Thanksgiving.  And start some dialog about gratitude with friends and family with these 20 conversation starters on Thanksgiving.

 

Teaching Your Church to Give

 

Jayson D. Bradley

Jayson D. Bradley is a writer and pastor in Bellingham, WA. He’s a regular contributor to Relevant Magazine, and his blog JaysonDBradley.com has been voted one of the 25 Christian blogs you should be reading.

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