I recently read a terrific column in our local newspaper by a pastor who talked of New Year’s resolutions.
In our efforts this year to change – to look better, feel better, or better manage our lives – he offered what I thought was a magnificent challenge: Make an effort to look more like Jesus by the end of the year.
Although none of us will achieve perfection in this life, becoming like Christ and being mistaken for him really should be every Christian’s goal, not because of our titles or positions, but because of our actions, attitudes and thoughts. – George Bowers Sr., pastor
I was moved by the idea since I’m usually terrible at achieving New Year’s resolutions, and, yet, I still love making them each year. There’s just something about figuratively closing the book on the past year and looking ahead to a year untouched and jam-packed with potential. The New Year makes me believe anything is possible, while the Year End makes me sad for missed opportunities.
But never, in all my New Year’s lists, have I ever resolved to be a better Christian. All of my plans have been primarily worldly – become healthier (ie. more physically fit), become better at managing my finances (ie. save more money), update my blog every week (ie. increase output of my product to improve my writing prowess).
To put it in the words of Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook: “Me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, now, now, now.”
Of course our intentions aren’t necessarily selfish. We resolve to be healthier so we can live longer and enjoy more quality time with those we love. We resolve to be better at money management to provide a better future for our family and friends – and perhaps so we’re not leaching off family or friends. We resolve to be more productive in our jobs or hobbies, because we hope to be of use to those who need us, to do our part to better the world, and actually use those talents God gave us, rather than letting them atrophy while we watch Netflix.
There’s honor in each of those ambitions – as long as we aren’t trading in sloth and gluttony for greed and vanity.
And that, I think, is where George Bowers’s idea of resolving to be more like Jesus fits in. Yes, let’s become healthier, more active, better at handling our finances, and more productive in our lives. But instead of focusing on how we (you and I) will benefit from our change in habits, let’s think how these changes will bring us closer to Jesus (or any of the other prophets who support your faith.)
In becoming “healthier,” are you shunning worldly items/habits that would otherwise draw you away from God? (ie. smoking, drugs, alcohol, sloth, gluttony, working too much, not sleeping enough, stressing yourself out.)
In becoming more productive, are you benefiting anyone but yourself? (ie. volunteering your time, donating money or items to others, producing anything of value that will help people.)
In decluttering your home, are you also “decluttering” your life? (ie. Removing the things that stress you out and bog you down, and instead sharing your life with others.)
In better managing your money, are you using that money for good?
This past Christmas, I was watching (for probably the 30th time) A Muppet Christmas Carol, when for the first time I really “heard” a line I’d never really heard before – in a song that Jacob and Robert Marley sing to Ebenezer Scrooge.
You specialize in causing pain, spreading fear and doubt.
And it hit me in that moment that so often, out of fear for the future or desperation to make others understand what I view as the truth, I have also spread fear and doubt. Example: Posting news articles on Facebook that I think people “need” to see, when really all I’m doing is sharing my fear with them and promoting more doubt in our government.
So I’m resolving to do that less. The world has enough fear and doubt without me stoking the fire. And I figure if people really want to read the news, they’ll read the news. They don’t need me bogging down their Facebook newsfeed with doomsday messages and calls to action, which will probably only reach the people who already agree with me.
That doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly stop sharing ideas I think are important. But my aim is in changing my tone. Instead of sharing the bad, I will share the good. Instead of pointing out fearful images, I will try to offer solutions of love.
The world is scary enough without feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and hatred bombarding us every time we log onto social media.