Personally, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. Ever. I know me well enough to not purposefully set myself up for failure; I fail at many things in this life without hand-walking myself into anymore self-loathing disappointments. I know there are plenty of things about character, health, and appearance that I need to work on, but January 1st isn’t a magic day for me. I claim that scripture verse that “He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it” – someday.
However, after the Great Chicken Debacle of 2012 and the embarrassing Duck Disaster of 2013, I think that the Christian Church at large needs to make some serious resolutions for 2014.
Late the night before the Phil Robertson crapstorm hit the fan on social media, I actually ran across one of the first articles posted online about his comments in GQ Magazine. I looked at Mr. eL. that night before bed and told him, “Word isn’t even out yet and I’m already sick of hearing about it.” I kept my fingers silent and watched the chaos flood my newsfeed for the next two weeks.
Amidst all of the carve-my-own-eyeballs-out-with-a-spoon updates – from both sides – that barraged my usually low-drama online existence, a friend of mine penned a BRILLIANT response. He said this:
613 old Jewish laws. Nope. No way humanity could keep all that. Ok, how about 10? They’re pretty straightforward, you know… don’t murder, don’t steal, etc. Can you handle that? NO?!? Geez… Ok. Here’s Jesus. And as far as commandments go, he’s like “Love God and love your neighbor.” That’s two. TWO. If we’re narrowing it down to just TWO they certainly must be the absolute most important. Can we get a handle on that? – Kevin Stipe
I purpose 3 New Year’s Resolutions for Christians in 2014:
1. Get a Handle on Love God and Love Your Neighbor.
“Jesus, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40
Notice that last part? “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ALL THE LAW. Every thou shalt not, every abomination, every named transgression past, present, and future hangs on Love God and Love People. Worry about those two things and let God deal with the rest.
Jesus spelled it out really clearly. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus came to seek and save, to love without precept those whom the Church loved and those whom the Church had rejected. He loved people, not sinners or tax collectors or prostitutes or saints. He loved without the “us and them” mentality that our love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin-generation of the church so readily practices. He invited all to dine at His table and to share in His life-giving presence. Yes, His parting instructions were, “go and sin no more,” but not before defending them, embracing them, and ensuring that they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were absolutely loved and accepted by the Savior. Because of His love, Jesus never had to debate, boycott, or shame anyone (outside of the church, that is).
I’m not sure how much love non-Christians have felt from the the Church in recent years; I’m too afraid to take a poll of my non-Christian friends to ask.
2. Be a Peacemaker.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Matthew 5:9
Jen Hatmaker said it far better than I ever could: “May we be peacemakers, because Jesus cast blessings on that role. To me, that means making peace within the church and making peace with those outside of it. I think folks will know us by the love we show others, because the Bible is OBSESSED with that concept apparently. I hope we use our public words to build bridges, not reinforce caverns, because peacemaking is truly a blessed business, my favorite thing.”
3. Choose Humility.
In faith, I accept that the Bible is the inspired word of God, but I also admit that some parts of it require more faith than others. I will admit that I often have a hard time reconciling what is relevant today and what time, geography, science, and the resurrection of Christ have made obsolete. I have no choice but to admit that yes, I know what the Bible says, but I also don’t always know exactly what it means. I suggest that we all practice a little humility and have thoughtful, receptive, and private discussions about the Word.
I love the way my pastor, Dan Scott so eloquently verbalizes this:
This text, which I receive as sacred, requires reflection and discussion in order to comprehend and apply its lessons. But once I believe I understand what it says, I bow my knee to it. I do not bend its words toward me.
The question is, as I wrestle with these issues, will I expand my conversation to include the reflections of those outside my sect, people who do not belong to my ethnic and linguistic community, and who live in a different era than I? Am I willing to really listen to others, even if I ultimately come to different conclusions than they? If I am, I may encounter fresh insights into this Book of Books. I may even acquire some wisdom. “
Rather than shouting at those who disagree, shaming others publicly in social media, and always insisting that we must be right, I pray that in 2014 may we all exercise a little more humility. May we keep our faith in the Word of God, but also remember that “we know in part and we prophesy in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9). I pray that we are more quick to listen than to speak and more quick to offer grace than rebuttal.
Above all else, in 2014 may we choose love – for without love, we have NOTHING else to offer.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13