Gratitude

You know how good it feels when someone thanks you for something from the bottom of their heart? Maybe you received a sweet handwritten thank you card. Maybe they cried, or maybe they did something nice for you in return. Maybe your love language is “words of affirmation” and they shared their gratitude for you with someone else in front of you (am I the only one for whom this is swoon-worthy? Hm?).

Last night, lifting my hands in worship at an intimate Starfield concert, I was full of gratitude. I was thankful for the obvious things: my good health, my warm shelter, my full belly, my happy home, my fulfilling job, my sweet family. But more importantly than that, I was filled with gratitude for one thing I often take for granted: my assured salvation.

The Starfield tour is for their album The Saving One. I should rephrase: the tour is for the Saving One. Jesus Christ.

Every religion in the world, including false Christianity (known or unknown!) and including non-religion, is about self. Self-fulfillment, self-gratitude, self-evaluation, self-assurance, self-improvement, self-worship, self-exultation. It comes masked as other things: inner peace, social justice, enlightenment, tradition, seeking, a journey, a path, a command (this one gets me every time!), but we’re all worshiping something. Maybe your religion is self-sacrifice and you find that fulfilling. It’s still about you.

Loving Jesus, though, is about the opposite of self. It’s not about self-anything, including self-sacrifice. Because the moment we make loving Jesus about hating ourselves, we aren’t loving Jesus.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. -Jesus

Loving Jesus naturally can only come from being grateful for what He did. I don’t do anything selflessly, out of love for Him or others, unless I am motivated by His love for me.

We love because He first loved us. -John, about Jesus

And the reason His love is so motivating is not just because He was an amazing person. Certainly my love for the poor and needy doesn’t measure up to Jesus’ in spite of my best efforts to care for the marginalized, and that is motivating because He is a perfect example. He was non-judgmental, he went out of his way to offer wisdom, comfort, food, water, healing and relationship to people who lacked one or all of those things.

Bono has this famous quote where he says that my generation will be known for three things: the internet, the war on terror, and how we watched an entire continent go up in flames with hunger, sickness and war.

It is maddening, and I agree, and I do hope that our generation begins to see the tremendous impact it does have and it can have on Africa. But Bono’s statement is only partly true. Yes, we can and should give more. We can and should sponsor more children, build more wells, staff more hospitals and stop preventable epidemics (that’s plural, friends. You know about AIDS, but don’t forget malaria and fistula). And yes, developed countries can and should send more aid to Africa without ulterior political or economic motive.

But if aid were what it took to save Africa, Africa would be saved. If aid were all it took, the world would see results and would respond with more aid, until the goal was met.

Africa needs a savior who can actually save. Africa needs the Saving One.

And so does Spain, and Latin America, and Asia, and the Middle East, and the United States of America. And me.

The reason Jesus is worth loving is because He did something no one else can do. He saw the world and all its problems, and he made a way to solve every single problem: He died, and then he broke the spell of death by coming back to life again.

You see, all the problems in the world are because of death, the consequence of our not being good enough (like Jesus). And that consequence has been paid by Jesus himself.

He’s the Saving One.

And I am grateful.