As 2022 fades into memory and 2023 begins, many of us will be thinking about our hopes and aspirations for the new year. Regardless of whether new year’s resolutions are your thing, it’s not a bad idea to set aside some time to take stock of where you’re at in life and maybe set some goals for yourself.
And if you happen to be a Christian, may I invite you to think not just about your own personal goals for the next year, but also about what all of us as Christians might need to resolve to do in 2023?
If we look at the world around us, things seem pretty bleak. There’s a lot going wrong, both near and far from home.
But Christianity is supposed to be good news for a hurting and dying world. Jesus invites us into his mission of healing, redeeming, and restoring everything that is broken in God’s creation. And he calls us to do that through lives of persistent faith, resilient hope, and sacrificial love for our neighbors.
No matter what circumstances may come in 2023, the basic job description of a Christian hasn’t changed. It remains as remarkably simple as ever.
Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Live a virtuous life, make disciples and build the church. Pursue justice and wholeness in your community. And walk humbly with your God.
The challenge is not in understanding it, but actually doing it.
2023 might be a good year for getting ourselves back to the basics. …At least, I think that’s something I need to do. So, maybe it’s something the whole church should consider resolving to do.
And yeah, some of these resolutions I’ll list are probably going to sound trite or cliché. But that’s because they’re always important and we need to be reminded of them frequently. If they sound too simplistic for you, keep in mind I’m preaching mainly at myself.
First and foremost, we need to resolve to spend more time in prayer and less time consuming media.
Did you know studies have shown that praying for 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week, with a concept of a loving God in mind has tangible positive effects on the body? On the other hand, consuming news and social media very clearly increases anxiety and reduces contentment.
So in addition to dieting and hitting the gym in January, improving your prayer life is up there on the list of ways to improve your health.
Second, we should resolve to spend less time in our busy routines and more time showing hospitality to our neighbors.
Yes, that includes our literal neighbors. The ones down the street. Along with the ones we see in church struggling to make life work.
It also includes the ones who don’t look like you, and the ones who can’t afford to pay you back.
It means building relationships with people who may not believe like you do, or live like you do, but who nonetheless need connection with people willing to love them like Jesus loves them.
Thirdly, we should resolve to have more patience with those across the political or doctrinal aisle, instead of doing our best to mock, dismiss, and verbally eviscerate them.
If Jesus said the world will know us by our love for one another, we need to resolve to make 2023 the year the church stops attacking its own so harshly. With as much division as we see in nearly every denomination and institution these days, the only way we’re going to be able to move in a healthy direction as a society is if we can regain the lost art of civility.
Maybe it’s time more folks resolve to take a break from feeling like they have to win all the arguments or defend all their pet doctrines, and just focus on actually praising Christ and sharing his love with others.
Also, maybe resolve not to argue theology or politics until you’ve prayed for (and, if possible, with) the other person. There’s an idea!
And lastly, we should resolve to be people of hope.
When I say hope, I’m not talking about a naïve optimism that ignores the problems around us. The Bible never promotes burying our heads in the sand.
It does command us to fix our hope on the promises of God. That he will finish what he started. That he is working with us in all things for good (Rom 8:28). That Christ will make all things new.
He continues to be near to the broken-hearted (Psa 34:18), continues to send rain on both the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45), continues drawing all people to himself (John 12:32). He is at work everywhere.
We should be, too.
Whatever measure of light he has given you, even if it feels feeble right now, resolve to let it shine. Tend the fire of God’s grace in your life. And share the warmth with others.
In 2023, the world needs Christians to be the people of hope we are called to be. Let’s resolve to do whatever we can to let the light shine through the cracks of our lives. You don’t have to do a great many things; you just need to have a great Christ and make much of him. In 2023, he’s still worthy.
See you down the path.