Pastor’s Friday Comments (12.27.19)

‘Tis the season for making resolutions. As I’ve noted before, commitments are more appropriate for Christians since resolutions imply actions we take upon ourselves, whereas commitments reflect our willingness to give our whole lives over to God and let God do the changing. Regardless of your perspective on how improvements are made in our lives, I’m sure we all need to make them, and the beginning of a new calendar year is as good an arbitrary place to begin as any.

I hereby offer a few suggestions, not so much based on observations of our family of faith, but from taking note of trends in our culture against which we as Christians must fight. If we are truly to be salt and light and yeast within society, we have to demonstrate the traits Christ expects of his disciples. We change the world by allowing God to change us. You probably have others to add, either personal or culture-wide, but perhaps this will start you thinking about your own list.

Tell the truth. Jesus told us that we will know the truth and the truth will make us free. He was referring to ultimate truth concerning God and our spiritual life, but the principle applies to every area of our existence. Don’t make up alternate realities just to avoid difficulties or make yourself look better. Stick to facts and life will be easier. You never have to remember what you said the last time.

Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Surely one of the reasons that there has been such a resurgence of interest in Fred Rogers, especially in the documentary and biopic, is that his life reflected Christian principles sorely needed and largely absent from our society. The gentleness and respect with which he treated everyone arose from his commitment to Christ, and those same ideals should be evident in the life of every Christian. There is no such thing as a Christian bully.

Seek to unite rather than to divide. There is more than enough divisiveness in our society already. Christians don’t need to add to it. Avoid labels that place people in opposing camps. Try to understand others’ points of view rather than being intent on convincing others of yours. Look for common ground instead of standing your own. Make the tent as big as possible and don’t try to fill it only with people who look, act, and think just like you do.

Make it (whatever “it” is) about someone else. It’s not about you. Repeat that: It’s not about you. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Jesus “the man for others.” His life and his death were in service to others. And he lived on earth to show us specifically how we could live that kind of life ourselves. This year spend a lot less time trying to figure out how to get everyone to do what you want and more time asking God how you can help others. The great thing about that approach is it’s the way to personal peace. We really do save our lives by losing them.

You’ll have your own list of things you hope to do better in the next year. But if you start with these, both your own life and the world will be better off.