As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17 (NRSV)
One of the most important “wilderness lessons” I had to learn the hard way is that the heaviest thing to carry is a grudge.
Jesus doesn’t command us to forgive as a cruel joke. We may at times be quite justified in our anger, but holding on to anger does nothing to right the wrongs that have been done against us. Holding onto our anger does nothing other than poison and paralyze us, while those who have wronged us go on about their merry way, blissfully unaware that we are hanging onto vitriol that is intended for them. Forgiveness allows us to surrender our anger and hurt and frustration to the One Who does have the power to make wrong things right again. Forgiveness allows our healing and opens our hearts to the love and restoration- and peace- that only God can bring.
Thankfulness is a close cousin to forgiveness. If we forgive others we also give up the “right” to be jealous of what others have. Rather than look at Susie-so-and-so and envy the fact that she is thinner or prettier or has a better car, why not thank God for the many blessings He has given us? When we think about the simple gifts such as friends and family, the ability to breathe, the beauty that surrounds us, it is easy to be thankful. It is amazing what God can do through us when we have an “attitude of gratitude,” rather than a heart that covets the things it doesn’t have.
Praise is a natural by-product of thankfulness. It is said that King David danced before God in praise, and had no inhibitions about it.
David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. 2 Samuel 6:14-15 (NRSV)
Admittedly, from a cultural viewpoint, Midwestern Americans of European descent are not normally prone to breaking out in dancing. Dancing is not forbidden in the Lutheran tradition, and it is a common form of worship in African congregations. In some Puritan traditions dancing is frowned upon as being “too provocative” and/or drawing attention to the physical body. However, we should have the freedom and the openness to praise God in our own way- with singing, instrumental music of all kinds, visual art, poetry and prose, and dancing, should the Spirit so lead us- no matter what other people might think about it.
The apostle Paul (who wrote the letter to the Colossians quoted in the verses above) was no stranger to hardship, deprivation and even experienced prison time because he kept on preaching and teaching about Jesus. Yet he forgave those who tormented him, thanked God for his blessings, and praised God constantly.
How can we forgive those who have wronged us, thank God for all He has done for us, and praise God when no one is around and even when everyone else is watching?