A new year is upon us and with it comes a mixture of emotions. There is the joy and relief of passing a fresh landmark mingled with the anxiety of uncertain days on the horizon. There is the hope of future times that have been untainted by folly joined with the guilt of realizing past goals have not been met and mistakes have been made. In addition to the cacophony created by this emotional milieu, this year we have the added variable of a looming political season that is exceptionally polarized and will surely threaten to divide many communities, families, churches, and social groups, as differences in viewpoints on justice, morality, society, and culture are exposed. In the face of a landscape such as this, I would challenge us all to realize that this new year is splayed before us untouched and untainted by past habits, biases, misunderstandings, and failures.
Let us consider the example of the apostles. Here was a group of men from disparate backgrounds. Some cooperated with big government (Matthew, as a tax collector) while others owned small businesses (Peter, James, and John, as fishermen). Some faced the temptation of guilt for past failures, whether they had denied Christ (Peter) or persecuted His church with deadly zeal (Paul). Others had to confront other apostles with differing opinions on ecclesiastical standards (Peter and Paul). While these characteristics are not hidden from the pages of Holy Scripture they do not define these individuals. Rather, this diverse group worked amidst ridicule, threat of violence, and social scandal to promote the unifying gospel of Christ and perpetuate His church.
Matthew, whom some may have seen as a government lackey, promoted a system of social justice in his recollection of Christ's preaching of the Sermon on the Mount that challenged readers to consider themselves part of a kingdom not of man but of God and to behave accordingly. John, a partner in a family-owned business, considered love for others to be the standard by which he should be known rather than his ability to expand the financial enterprises of his family. Paul did not wallow in guilt for past atrocities but instead used the memory of the past to propel him to diligently pursue Christ in the present. He also, although having confronted Peter, urged people in the church to not hold a grudge when offended but to instead confront the offense and then move forward in unity to the Table of the Lord.
These saints of old are examples of Christians who lived life with a motivation that surpassed this transient and mortal life. As we face a new year, with the opportunity for resolution that goes with it, may we resolve to have a solitary motivation in life that sees God as our Almighty King and we as His faithful subjects. May we develop a resolute dedication to God and His church that overshadows all other aspects of our lives. As we face a polarizing political process, may we recognize that the body of Christ was forged from one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all. Let us not question the eternal state of those with differing economic, political, and social viewpoints from our own. Rather, let us realize that the body of Christ is diverse; there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, Democrat nor Republican, socialist nor capitalist.
This is the perfect opportunity to push forward with a new drive to live life in pursuit of the One who should be our unique priority. As we look ahead, may we all put aside past guilt, reliance on financial security, political allegiance, and unresolved offense as the motivations for our decisions. May we all instead live life in complete service of Almighty God, boldly pursuing Him on the basis of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.