Friday, May 8, 2015

Think about this: What is Commendable?

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." - Philippians 4:8, ESV

This verse is the only time in the New Testament that the word "commendable" appears in the original Greek. The direct translation is "good saying," or good report. I had to look it up in my Greek reference book, because I wasn't sure how it was different from the word "honorable" (which I wrote about a few days ago).

So, good report... As a teacher, I get this. I've learned how important it is to acknowledge good behavior or exceptional work. It isn't enough to just pat a student on the hand and say, "Good job!" If I just wrote that on everyone's report cards, with no additional feedback, the compliment would eventually lose its effect, and no one would believe that I even cared. It would become hollow and meaningless. But, if I observe something special in a student's work - their persistence, encouraging improvement, creative effort, impressive initiative - I should make a point of specifically commending that student for that thing. And I should be quicker and more effortless in looking for things to commend, rather than complain or criticize.

I think this part of the verse is really important for us, especially when we are tempted to be pessimistic and cynical about the world we live in. It's easy to watch the news or read a newspaper and believe that there is nothing good in the world anymore. Some days I feel the weight of it all - the Curse, the brokenness, the pain, the evil - and it quickly throws a dark shadow over everything positive. But I need to seek out what is commendable, and highlight it so that my focus is drawn to it.

Think about the good Samaritan stories in your community, the nonprofit organizations that exist to make the world a better place, the couple that adopts a baby with special needs, the anonymous gifts that seem to come to people when they need it most. Even the small things, like the stranger who holds the door open for me, or spontaneously decides to buy your coffee for you. Sometimes commendable things are hidden - in fact, I think some of the most commendable things are hidden, because they are done out of the goodness of people's hearts, with no ulterior motive for praise or attention. But they are worth looking for and taking notice of. All of these things - big and small, center stage and behind the scenes - remind us that there is still good in the world. Love and kindness are still alive and powerful. And this brings hope and restores faith.

The Scripture tells us that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17). So anything good we witness should point us back to God, knowing that without him, there is nothing good in any of us. This is where my thoughts once again translate into praise - God is so good to me! His love is steadfast, his kindness is immeasurable, his grace is amazing, his mercy is great, his compassion is new every morning, his faithfulness endures to all generations. To God be the glory, for great things he has done!

Whatever is commendable... think about these things. 

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