14169122-thank-you-handwritten-on-a-sticky-noteAre you someone who says “thank you” easily — and mean it? Are you someone who goes through life aware of the grace you receive? (I guess I needed a lot of help in this area because the name my mother gave me, Soo-Inn, means “conscious of grace received” in Chinese.) More and more I have come to see that gratitude is a key component of healthy relationships.

Yesterday, we received a card with these words:

Just want to let both of you know that we really appreciate all the love you have showered upon us through your hospitality even though both of you have been so tired. We have been very blessed by your ministry and have been touched by God to contribute to your upcoming trip to the US/Canada.

There was a cheque that came with the card. The card and the love that came with it were food for our souls on a day when we crazily trying to get many things done before our upcoming trip. They came from a couple who are in one of our newer spiritual friendship groups. We were deeply touched. Their generous gesture further cemented our friendship and reminded me that gratitude is relational. “Thank yous” build relationships.

Luke 17: 11-19 records a time when Jesus healed ten men with leprosy. Only one returned to thank Him.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this  foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (TNIV)

There is a deep linkage between praise, thanksgiving, faith, and wholeness. However, it must be noted that the nine who didn’t come back to thank Jesus were doing what Jesus had asked them to do — to go and show themselves to the priest. The actions of the healed Samaritan were spontaneous, an outflow from a heart very aware that it had received grace. Maybe it was because he was an outcast twice over, both as leper and as a Samaritan in Jewish society. Whatever the reason, he was so overcome by the realisation of the grace he had received, that he went back to thank Jesus. M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock comment:

This is a completely spontaneous act, the expression of a gratitude not commanded by Jesus. Gratitude cannot be commanded or exacted … There is no presumption that “of course God heals/forgives/saves — that’s God’s business.” Grace cannot be calculated; grace is always amazing grace. “Grace” and “gratitude” are related linguistically and theologically; just as the two words are derived from the same root, so there can be no awareness of grace without gratitude, no gratitude without an awareness of grace. (“Luke,” The People’s New Testament Commentary, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Know Press, 2004, 247.)

Nine of the lepers had received healing. But in turning back to praise God and to thank Jesus, the healed Samaritan leper gave/received something more. He entered into a saving relationship with Jesus. “Jesus is probably saying that although ten have experienced the blessing of healing, only one has faith and has turned to establish ties with Jesus that indicate the presence of salvation … ” (Darrell L. Bock, LUKE, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996, 446). In a world where so many exchanges are transactional, a thank you from the heart says there is something here more than just payment, more than just goods and services.

Life is a gift. Creation is a gift. The Cross is a gift and so is the new heaven and the new earth and everything in between. For those with eyes to see, life is strewn with the generous gifts of God and people, ranging from our eternal salvation, to a cup of cold water on a hot day. For those of us who want to orientate our lives around the twin loves of God and neighbour, there are many reasons to say thank you. Indeed we are to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) believing that a gracious God can bring good even out of evil (Romans 8:28).

Got my US visa today. It was touch and go for awhile. We didn’t realise that there would be so many people applying. At first, we couldn’t get a suitable date for an interview, a critical part of the application process. For a while it looked like I couldn’t get into the US this trip. But God was gracious. Some people cancelled their interviews. (H1N1 virus scare?) I got a slot for an interview — and a US visa. I am glad we will be going to Seattle. Many people there that I need to thank. Thank you God.