Here we are again. The lights are down, the tree is put away, the gifts are all opened – and it’s time for the annual tradition of resolution-making. We make promises and commitments to ourselves and others, with varying degrees of success. So we commit to exercise, to eat better, to stop spending so much money – at least for a while. We all do this at some level. We reflect, we remember, we respond, and we resolve – this will be the year when things are different.
If it’s true, then, that we all do this – Christians and non-Christians alike – then the resolutions of the Christian ought to have the same distinct quality that’s meant to inform everything else we do. With these resolutions, too, we are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Our resolutions should reflect the fact that we are indeed a different people, with a different king, and a different set of priorities. What, then, are the resolutions that every Christian make? What are those things we should put ourselves toward that will provide the kind of distinction that Jesus wants in His followers? I’d propose these five, each of which stand contrary to the value system of the world and culture in which we find ourselves. And each of which that will, by God’s grace, cause yet another gospel-centered conversation to happen with those around us:
1. Listen more.
We live in a culture of hot takes and instant communication. We now have the means to immediately and decisively express any opinion that we have on any subject. As a consequence, the art of listening – really listening – is increasingly hard to come by. Even when we are in conversation with others, we find ourselves not really listening, but only thinking of what we are going to say next. The Christian stands against this, and sees listening as another practical way to die to ourselves. We put aside our own ambition and desires in the simplest of ways possible. We are those who are slow to speak, and quick to listen to others around us.
2. Keep showing up.
We live in a culture of disposability. Everything has a shelf life, whether the television in the living room or the marriage we begrudgingly entered into. We start up activities, social clubs, relationships, church membership – and then as soon as our expectations are not met in some way, we exit stage left and move onto something else. The Christian stands agains this and chooses the road of perseverance. The Christian keeps showing up, even when it’s boring, even when it feels like drudgery. We are those whose word and commitment matters.
3. Slow down.
We live in a culture of speed. Speed at all costs. It doesn’t matter if our news is accurate, it doesn’t matter if the food is well cooked, it doesn’t matter if we have all the facts to make our judgment – everything is a race. And we. Must. Be. First. The Christian stands against this and chooses the long way. We know that God is patient, and that He operates on a time-table all His own. And because we are confident in His sense of timing and wisdom in exercising His power, we can actually slow down. Put the phone away. Take a day off. The Christian can rest because, after all, Jesus said that it is finished.
4. Be content.
We live in a culture of more. Always more. More food. More money. More power. More ambition. More sex. More of everything. In this way, the entire world finds itself on a ridiculous treadmill, constantly running and yet going nowhere, because the ever elusive “else” hangs out in front of us. The Christian stands against this, not because we are content with having little, but because we have a growing understanding of all the spiritual blessings that have already been given to us in Christ. Rather than joining this treadmill of more, the Christian can actually be satisfied, not because Jesus is enough, but because Jesus is all.
5. Do not seek revenge.
We live in a culture of vengeance, like it or not. Everyone feels wronged, and everyone desires vengeance for what they believe has been done to them. This is one of the reasons why there seems, I believe, a simmering undercurrent of anger behind everything we do right now. Gone are the days when we take the cost unto ourselves, and increasingly here are the days when someone must answer for all things… right now. The Christian stands against this, not because we have a lesser vision of justice, but a greater one. We of all others believe that justice must and will be served, but we also believe that it is the Lord’s responsibility to execute that justice in the way, and through the people, He deems fit. The Christian is freed, then, to forgive and continue on, trusting in the God who makes all things right in just the right way.
Friends, perhaps you are thinking about weight loss this new year. Or maybe your resolution is about saving for retirement. I don’t begrudge you that – exercise and save while you can. But let’s make sure together that even our resolutions reflect something different than everyone else.