A Gathering Voices post by David Maxwell
Whenever I think about Thoughtful Christian, I always wonder, which comes first: Thoughtful or Christian?
I know thoughtful people who are not Christians. And, unfortunately, I know many Christians who are not very thoughtful.
Editing the studies on the Thoughtful Christian over the past five years has allowed me to collect some qualities of thoughtful Christians that are meaningful to me. During this season of Lent, when Christians reflect on our walk with Christ, I have been doing a lot of thinking about these qualities.
Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God and love neighbor as self. Thus, I have grouped these qualities into two categories which we will call Thoughtful (love of neighbor and self) and Christian (love of God). This week we focus on the thoughtful qualities.
Thoughtful Christians are humble. An upcoming study pack on Christian Vices and Virtues contrasts the virtue of humility with the sin of pride. It says the root of humility is an awareness of ourselves as creatures among other creatures, with no standing but that of grace. Pride shows the fear that we do not matter to God. Humility is the knowledge that we do matter, just no more than anyone else.
Thoughtful Christians love others. Paul’s beautiful words in 1 Corinthians 13 come to mind. A faithful person can have all sorts of spiritual gifts and do all sorts of good works, but if we have not loved, we are nothing and do not please God.
Thoughtful Christians forgive. Jesus taught us to forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). Disciples forgive in order to build community. Ironically, this next September 11th lectionary text is Matthew 18:21-35 where Jesus outlines the process for dealing with those who do us wrong. Even after going through all the steps to get the accused to admit their fault, if they do not, Jesus says to treat them as a Gentile and a tax collector. Who did he spend time with? Gentiles and tax collectors! That is, never give up.
Thoughtful Christians listen to all sides and seek truth. God cares so much about what we do to one another and to the earth that God came to earth to show us how to live together. Jesus spent his life involved in issues of justice and human suffering. The thoughtful Christian must learn about issues that affect others, especially if we are causing the suffering.
Thoughtful Christians take a stand. Jesus did not just preach and kiss babies. He was enraged at injustice and even committed religious disobedience in the Temple. Yet, he modeled a way of engaging his enemies and not dehumanizing them. The late William Sloane Coffin once said how hard but necessary it is for activists to straddle the fence between the invisible and visible world. People are either so earthly bound they’re of no heavenly use. Or so heavenly bound they are of no earthly good.
These are a few of the gems I have learned while reading all these studies. What would you add?
Next week I will discuss Christian faith practices that seem most important.
The Mission of The Thoughtful Christian.com
The Thoughtful Christian is a Web-based resource center that seeks to help Christians wrestle with difficult questions by stimulating informed conversation and reflection about living faithfully in a complex world.
By visiting this site, you are showing that you want to wrestle with the questions that inform the way we live out our faith in everyday life. Jesus called us to love God with our minds, as well as our hearts and souls. This, he said, is the greatest commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37 NRSV).
The Thoughtful Christian is a online religious marketplace including digital and print resources that are perfect for Sunday school classes, Bible study groups, clergy and preachers, Christian educators and teachers, religious academic scholars, students, and individuals who seek to grow, nurture and even ask questions to develop their faith and inform their faithful action in the world. By offering current and theologically sound books; studies for youth, adults, and parents; and retreat guides, we strive to encourage Christians to share their thoughts and beliefs while wrestling with questions that inform the way we live out our faith in everyday life.