Dr. Scott W. Sunquist
Forty-nine and a half years of friendship is something to be thankful for. Nancy and I were caught up in some reflection and thanksgiving the past week through a couple of encounters.
Ben Witherington and I met my first year in college when he took me under his wing (he is much older!) and guided me into a good fellowship group on campus. In that fellowship group, Nancy and I met, I was discipled in a large secular university, learned to read carefully as a Christian, and eventually attended Urbana Missions Conference and, well, the rest is history.
Ben went to Gordon-Conwell and suggested that I do the same. I did and that has made all the difference (for both of us). Next September we can celebrate fifty years of friendship. In a half-of-a century we got married, earned degrees, taught, wrote books, and saw close relatives die too young. Over a long dinner we both laughed and cried remembering.
If U.S. Thanksgiving is nothing else, it must be a time of reflection and a time of expressing gratitude. We need to both express gratitude to God for his many mercies, but also to each other for faithful friendships and love.
On our way to the American Academy of Religion, we were given a ride to the airport by one of our students, a North African who sought and received asylum in the United States. The persecution of Christians in many countries of the world is something we often only hear about from a distance. It is like a far-off rumor of a rumor of something whispered. However, for millions of Christians in the world it is as real as life in prison or escaping across the mountains on a cold and windy night. After much suffering and loneliness, our student is grateful.
In addition to our North African student, who, thankfully is now studying counseling and preparing to get married, I had a conversation with an Afghan refugee who is part of our community. She had reasons for being grateful: her parents and sisters have escaped Afghanistan for their lives. They are currently in Abu Dhabi and are headed to the United States. Soon, we hope to welcome them into our community and help them adjust to our culture, the most important part being to learn the English language.
“This my son and daughter, is how you should begin your life according to God. You should continually and unceasingly call to mind all the blessings which God in his love has bestowed upon you in the past and bestows for the salvation of your soul.”
Not only is the foundation of the Christian life one of gratitude, but our own thriving day-to-day comes from the nutrients we gain in living a life of gratitude.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:15-17)
And be thankful. It is a command from Holy Scripture…a command that is for our own health, wholeness, and joy. Thank you, Jesus.
 St. Mark the Ascetic in The Philokalia, p. 148.
Scott W. Sunquist, the President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes a weekly blog, “Attentiveness” which is posted each Tuesday on the Gordon-Conwell web site. He welcomes comments, responses, and good ideas.