Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.
Martin Luther wrote these words as part of what’s known as the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518. The point that Luther was trying to make was that God does not wait for sinners to be lovable before he bestows his love upon them. Rather, God loves the ugly sinner, and through that love the sinner becomes beautiful in God’s eyes.
As we approach another celebration of Thanksgiving, can we as baptized children of our Heavenly Father apply that same perspective to our thankfulness? We are often tempted to withhold thankfulness until we feel that we have something to be thankful for. We are often tempted to look to God and tell him that we will be thankful when we are out of debt, when our entire family is healthy, when we get that promotion at work, or maybe even when we finally get a steady job. There will always be something we do not yet have, so Satan tempts us to withhold thankfulness until we get that thing. The problem is, even when we get that one thing, there will be another thing we desire, and another, and another. We will never have everything we want in this life. Are we to withhold thankfulness forever?
Rather than waiting for God to do something extraordinary before offering him thanks, let us instead thank him for the mercies that are new to us every morning, remembering what we learned of our Lord’s First Article gifts. He gives us clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all that we have. He richly and daily provides us with all we need to support this body and life. He defends us from all danger, and guards and protects us from all evil. All this he does only out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us. For all this, it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey him.
When we adopt a thankful heart as a matter of principle, there will be no shortage of things for which to be thankful. Rather than waiting for something to be thankful for, rejoice in the many wonderful gifts that our Lord has already given, knowing that they come into our lives as undeserved gifts. What a tremendous gift this is! How much joy will fill our lives!
My prayer for you this Thanksgiving, and throughout the holiday season, is that your life be filled with this joyful thankfulness. While we were ugly in sin, our Lord loved us and covered us with his beauty. Even though our lives can look and feel ugly in this sinful world, we have been given the greatest gift possible: Jesus Christ crucified and risen for us. The joy of knowing our salvation is secure frees us to receive the things of this often times ugly existence with thankfulness. No longer will we be thankful only when we have something to be thankful for, rather we will find an abundance of things to be thankful for because we are thankful people.