Grace, Gratitude, and Joy
THE TWIN CHILDREN OF GRACE
Gratitude and joy are the twin children of grace, organically joined both theologically and spiritually. In Greek they are even related linguistically: the words for grace, gratitude and joy all have the same root, CHAR, a noun that refers to health and well-being. "Grace" is CHARIS, "gratitude" is EUCHARISTIA, and "joy" is CHARA.
What is merely a linguistic relationship in Greek is a burning reality in the kingdom of God. Grace is God's mercy, his unmerited favor. It is what Frederick Buechner calls the "crucial eccentricity" of the Christian faith, the unique and wonderfully odd thing God does to forgive sinners: he doesn't give them the bad things they deserve but the incredibly good things they don't deserve. The great gospel mystery is not that bad thins sometimes happen to good people, but that such a good thing has happened to bad people. The guilty and broken have discovered that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). What else can we be but grateful? "How can anything more or different be asked of man?" asks Karl Barth. "The only answer to charis is eucharistia. . . . Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth. Grace evokes gratitude like the voice of an echo. Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightning."
And as gratitude follows grace, so joy follows gratitude, for joy is what we feel when we're hugely grateful. The pattern runs throughout Scripture: God does something wonderful and the people praise him joyfully. What else could they do—praise him somberly? Genuine gratitude must necessarily be joyful. The greater the grace, the greater the gratitude; the greater the gratitude, the greater the joy.
Psalm 95, for instance, begins with a call to be grateful and joyful in a big way:
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song. (Psalm 95:1-2)
Why such exuberance? Because God is super-outstanding, that's why.
For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95:3-5)
God's creative power is reason enough to be grateful and joyful. But there is more: not only is God beyond impressive in what he made, but he has taken a special liking to us. He is intimately involved in our well-being:
For he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care. (Psalm 95:7)
The joy of genuine gratitude follows grace like thunder follows lightning.
Psalm 16 oozes with joy; its essence is compressed into the last verse:
You have made known to me the path of life;
you fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)
It's all there. The grace is the path of life, the exquisite presence of God, and eternal life. The gratitude and joy, like echoes in a canyon, are a result of the eternal pleasures we find at God's right hand.
These are but two examples from the book of Psalms, which is largely a libretto of joy and praise. This book, the largest in the Bible, begins with a description of the things that make for happiness—"delight . . . in the law of the LORD" (Psalm 1:2)—and ends with, "Let everything that has breath praise the LORD" (Psalm 150:6). Next to Genesis and Revelation, the Psalms are the easiest book to find. They sit, significantly I think, right at the center of the Bible—just like the gospel message.
—Ben Patterson. HE HAS MADE ME GLAD: ENJOYING GOD'S GOODNESS WITH RECKLESS ABANDON. Downer's Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005, pp. 16-18. ISBN: 0-8308-1743-3
Have a great week!
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
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