We usually know when someone really appreciates a gift by the way he uses it. Nothing else registers the depth of gratitude quite so accurately. A gift carefully tucked away on a shelf is soon forgotten; one used incorrectly is wasted. But the one utilized according to directions is the one that is genuinely appreciated.
The gift of Christianity is no exception. This gift, demonstrated by Christ Jesus, is never depleted with steady use, but grows more and more valuable. Wrapped in wisdom and tied with bows of tender promise, Christianity is a practical gift, meant to be exercised, and it comes complete with directions.
Many directions may be found in the Sermon on the Mount. n1 The Beatitudes, for example, describe how we can mold Christian character by being meek, merciful, and pure. The standard of Christian behavior is found in what is known as the Golden Rule. The Lord's Prayer, also found in the Sermon on the Mount, exemplifies the unselfish spirituality that daily prayer should reach. Studying the Bible, including the wise and practical teachings of Jesus, opens great avenues of Christian action.
n1 Matthew, chapters 5-7.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ''Action expresses more gratitude than speech.'' n2 Identifying oneself as a Christian certainly can crystallize good intentions, but what can show more genuine gratitude for the gift of being a Christian than actually behaving like one, expressing more and more of our true, God-created selfhood? Even in crowded stores among strangers, in busy traffic, at home or in the office, we can find situations in which the action of simply turning the other cheek n3 is more expressive of Christianity than reacting. We let our light shine when we stop reacting and start letting our actions be Christlike and loving. Qualities such as patience and courtesy are rooted in Christian love and natural to it. When we exercise them, whether or not they meet immediate response, we are really expressing gratitude for the gift of Christianity.
n2 Science and Health with Key to the Sciptures, p. 3
n3 See Matthew 5:39.
Practicing the healing love that Jesus lived enriches our skill in employing it daily. Replacing criticism with compassion, indifference with caring, and self-concern with worldwide awareness sharpens our ability to appreciate the priceless gift. The added bonus is that the rough edges of daily experience are softened for those around us. Each time we treat another with respect, lighten another's load, or brighten a day with kindness, we are truly showing how much we value the gift of spiritual love. Christianity in action means expressing powerful, healing, Christly love in practical, everyday situations.
One who has learned even a degree of the unreliability of materialistic thinking and acting - the treachery of its treasures and the poverty of its promises - is ready to open the spiritual gift, diligently study the directions, and begin discovering how it heals when put into the mainstream of daily living. Filled with gratitude for the grace of Christianity, he is willing to pause, turn aside from the feverish commotion of daily demands; and seeing the radiance of God's Word, he is ready to conform his actions to it.
As we put into practice whatever we understand of the teachings and works of Christ Jesus, we begin to perceive that Christianity is a gift, and more. It is a health-giving, peace-bestowing requirement of daily behavior, enabling us to work out our salvation, to prove the supremacy of God and the perfection of man as His spiritual likeness. Gratitude for this goes beyond words. It's expressed in daily living through the Christliness of honesty, joy, usefulness, and love for one another. Then with every action of our lives, we are truly whispering Paul's fervent prayer of gratitude, ''Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.'' n4
n4 II Corinthians 9:15.