Although many people make resolutions at the beginning of a New Year, most don't stick with them very long. There is nothing wrong with making these resolutions, actually some are very good. An employee decided she would quit smoking starting January 1. When I asked her why she wouldn't quit in December, she said she wasn't ready. I'm not sure, but I think her resolution has already fallen by the wayside.
Good intentions are nice, but won't go very far unless backed up by a real desire. It also helps if you are seeking the assistance of a higher power. I have made a New Year's resolution. I am pretty sure I will fail from time to time, but I want to see my life changed by the principle Jesus lays out in Matthew 5:38-48. As many of you will recognize, this is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is zeroing in on our selfishness. He says turn you cheek, give the shirt off your back, go the extra mile, and love your enemies. This, I believe was the revolutionary way of living that was a large part of turning the Roman world upside down and made Christianity such a major 'religion' within 100 years after the resurrection of Jesus. Religion is in quotes because it is after all, not a religion, but a way of life and a relationship with our loving Creator.
There are two reasons why I am making the resolution. First, because I want others to see God reflected in me, something that can be accomplished through following the steps laid out in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus makes an incredible statement in verse 48: 'Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.' I'm not going to disagree with the scholars who say perfect doesn't really mean perfect, it really means mature. But what I am saying is that if we follow the guidelines laid down by Jesus, we are going to be what the Bible describes as perfect. I think that is a good reason. If you are in a position where God is pleased with you, you are in a good position. And you will reflect the Lord God to a world that desperately needs a glimpse of Him.
The second reason I am making this resolution is what it will do for me. I know Jesus didn't make the statements in His Sermon just to see how difficult He could make things for His disciples, but because He knew that these principles He was laying out were to help us to live out His purpose. As humans we all have been made in the image of God. He knows us, and what is best for us. He also knows moral perfection, and how we can be morally perfect. Because Jesus knows what is best for me, why wouldn't I want to be obedient to what He says?
But there are many precepts laid out in the Bible that we as selfish humans reject as unacceptable. Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, but when he says, 'If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.' (Prov. 25:21-22), my first reaction is to roll my eyes and mutter 'Yeah, right!' There have been people who have treated me and my family pretty bad and I really don't want to help them. But if I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then I am expected to treat this passage, not only with respect, but with complete obedience, even if it hurts.
Okay, it sure is good that Jesus gives us only four rules as listed above. Well, maybe He just gave four examples, and that actually there is a principle that He is teaching. This is where it gets really tough. I have to entirely change my way of thinking, which is why I am sure I will fail from time to time. But I am convinced that Jesus is teaching this principle: I am to place the interests of others before my interests. It is easy to say, but it is radical thinking and can only be accomplished through total dependence and faith in Jesus.
I want to be a Christ-follower. I want to live by His precepts, not to win His favor, but because I love Him. I will trust Him and pray that He will change my thinking. This is my resolution for 2011. What's yours?