Many around us seem to have lost what used to be the common courtesies of please and thank you. Sadly, this is not just true of the wider community but is also true of many families and church members, particularly in the large urban centers.
Yet, to say please and thank you is firmly grounded in the Scriptures. When we respond to God’s call to us to turn to Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we need to be like the tax-collector in Jesus’ parable and pray, ‘Lord, please be merciful to me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:13). And when we know God’s extraordinary mercy, how can we be otherwise but thankful.
Is the absence of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a sign of immaturity?
Paul the Apostle wrote to the young church in Colossae: As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (2:6-7). These two verses unlock the central theme of the Colossian letter.
One of the key reasons some of God’s people are constantly looking for extra experiences and blessings is their lack of on-going Christian growth and maturity. They have accepted Christ – that he died for their sins – but they have never gone any further. Consequently their faith has shrivelled and dried up. This is the very opposite from what the New Testament expects.
Paul expects a number of things to be happening in our lives. For a start, having received Christ Jesus the Lord, so we are now to live in him. We can think of it like this. When Christ moves into our lives there are many things with which he is not comfortable. There’s a lot of cleaning up to be done, repairs and renovation. But, as anyone who has been involved in renovation and repairs knows, it takes longer and costs much more than originally thought.
And it’s like that with our lives. It takes a lot longer and costs a lot more to make our lives a place fit for the king. The challenge is to make Christ Lord in all our affairs – something he develops in Colossians 3.
Furthermore, Paul continues, as you were rooted… be built up;… Despite the mixed metaphors – one is from the world of botany, the other from building – Paul’s meaning is clear. He is keen to see growth. He doesn’t want stunted Christians in Colossae – or anywhere for that matter.
How does this growth occur? By chasing after more and more ecstatic experiences? By adopting more and more ritual and ceremony when God’s people gather? No. A genuine experience of Christ rarely comes to someone who is not spending time in the Scriptures. This is also true of churches. Too often, as the ceremony increases the sermons become shorter.
Yes, there are times when we’re not motivated to dig deeper into the Scriptures. Sometimes sickness, a crisis in life or the death of a friend, leaves us more open to reading our Bible more rigorously. Sometimes it’s not until we see the houses, cars, the trophies of the world for what they are – transient trifles which have a fading and passing splendor – that we see the lasting treasure of God’s truth. And then we begin to grow.
As you were taught… be established in the truth, Paul continues.
For some years a little saying kept me focussed on the need for consistent Bible reading in my life: ‘No Bible, no breakfast; no prayer, no paper.’ The danger with this kind of line is that Bible reading and prayer become a law. But if it is taken as a guide it can be a useful reminder of the need for daily Bible reading and prayer.
Here are the keys: As you received… so live – godly living; as you were rooted… be built up – spiritual growth; as you were taught… be established in the truth – biblical understanding.
To return to where I began. It’s important that we don’t overlook Paul’s exhortation. It is brief but to the point: …abounding in thanksgiving. To have a thankful heart is to have a contented heart.
Let me ask, how often do we get anxious because thankfulness to God is not part of our Christian DNA? The sense of thankfulness within us is a real measure of our growth in Christ. We can’t get taken up with our own desires and self-interest for long if we are truly thankful to the Lord Jesus Christ – for who he is and all he has done for us.
If deep down in our hearts we know that he is the Good Shepherd who has not only died for us but who is also committed to bringing good for us out of all the confusion and troubles of life, we can be nothing but thankful to him.
And this spirit of thankfulness, I suggest, will flow over into our relationships where others have played a part in serving us. Isn’t it time we reintroduce the biblical motifs of please and thank you?
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com