And Be Thankful
Updated: Nov 26, 2021
15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 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 thanksgiving in your hearts to God. 17 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.
A question you might frequently hear in our house is, “What do you say?” The response we are hoping for is, “Thank you.” Please and thank you are a part of well-mannered interactions with others. Manners are a good thing, but saying “thank you” and being thankful are two different things.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians has a theme of thankfulness running through it, but it saturates the verses we have been memorizing this month. Three times we are encouraged to be thankful. These verses come in a section where Paul is detailing for us who believers are and what is to characterize them: our identity in Christ (3:12a) and our attitudes towards those in Christ (3:12b-14). To grasp the weight of what Paul is saying, we need to read these verses with a southern accent… “Y’all.” He is talking to the church collectively, not to them individually.
The word peace carries the idea of the Hebrew word shalom, which speaks to well-being and prosperity. Paul is saying this peace is to rule your relationships. That is, peace is the deciding factor… it is the umpire that makes the call. So Paul is not talking about the personal peace we look for in making a decision or anxiety-free living. The peace of Christ isn’t peace with yourself; it is peace in the context of relationships within the body of Christ.
Then, almost out of nowhere, Paul says, “And be thankful.” What role does thankfulness play in peace with one another in the body of Christ? Consider these five heart attitudes that destroy peace in our relationships. Each of them, in their own way, flow from an ungrateful heart: (1)
Pride- when I have too high a view of myself, discontentment will grow as I measure others. The gospel breaks open the hard heart of pride by exposing us to a God of love who pursues sinners.
Impatience- No one likes to be inconvenienced, and since we expect things immediately and permanently to work out as we have planned. The gospel reminds us of God’s patience with us in that while we are yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Presumption- We tend to think we deserve more than we get. Or, at least, better than what we get from others and circumstances. The gospel shows us that we have revived grace instead of what we deserved.
Greed- When we desire something too much, it rules our heart and thus our interactions with others. The gospel teaches us that God, in giving us his son demonstrates that he will graciously give us all things.
Unbelief- We easily lose sight of God’s good providence and his wise fatherly disposal of everything in our lives. It is here where the seed of unbelief takes root if we are not cautious. The gospel fixes our eyes on Christ, God in the flesh. And in him, we see the One who loves us.
Each of these attitudes turns into grumbling, and grumbling always has travel companions like bitterness, anger, and malice. All these things are antithetical to the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts.
Thankfulness is Paul’s solution to these kinds of things that creep into our hearts. Sam Crabtree defines thankfulness this way, “Thankfulness is all about the absolute and total lordship of God, his sovereignty over all things, and his kindness in using his almighty power to work all things for our good—while our enlivened hearts gratefully recognize him as the source of it all.” (2)
Paul is not teaching us manners here. He is exhorting us to let the peace of Christ rule in our relationships. A thankful heart is the soil from which this peace can grow and bear fruit. To cultivate thankfulness, we must see the things in our lives that turn our eyes away from Christ and expose them to the truth we are taught in the word of Christ, which is to dwell in us richly.
But we don’t do this alone. We are to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom. One of the ways Paul says this teaching and admonishing is through singing. Rather than the song we sing being merely a matter of personal preference, we are to understand this act of praise, reminding one another of God and his work on our behalf. When together we sing, we shift focus from ourselves to the one whom we worship. This, in turn, tunes our hearts to the peace of Christ.
Finally, we see Christ’s Lordship is all-encompassing. There is nothing we say or do that is not done with this understanding. The characteristic of these sources of grumbling listed above is “me.” But if we surrender ourselves to Christ in everything we do, our focus shifts to him and what he would have us do and say.
The peace of Christ rules in our lives when we are thankful. When our eyes are fixed, God’s grace is displayed to us through Christ; we have infinite reasons to be grateful. When we struggle to have peace in our relationships with one another or grumbling is the general tenor of our heart, we must fight to have the word of Christ inform us of God and his promises.
(1) Adapted from Truth in Love Podcast: The sin of Murmuring, https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/truth-in-love/id1003845008?i=1000541947443
(2) Crabtree, Sam, Practicing Thankfulness: Cultivating A Grateful Heart in All Circumstances, 22.