As we say goodbye to 2021 and welcome in 2022, hopeful for what it may bring, our thoughts often turn to what changes we need to make. Some of us make New Year’s resolutions, resolving to eat better, exercise more, lose weight, or we attempt to quit some destructive habit. Have you made a resolution?
Unfortunately, something like 80% of our resolutions fail. Many of us will have fallen off the wagon and back into old habits by Valentine’s Day. Our resolutions fail for a variety of reasons. Often resolutions are too broad, with an ill-defined plan of action. Most often, we fail because we try to make changes to our lives on our own, without community to support us, or hold us accountable to our commitments.
But there is something good about New Year’s resolutions. It is our attempt to press into a healthier lifestyle and better habits. In Christian Spirituality, this is like repentance. Repentance is more than just remorse for our bad behavior, but it is the resolve to make changes. It is making an about-face, from the direction we are headed, and it is a determination to live differently. John the Baptizer baptized the people into a baptism of repentance. Jesus himself began his early ministry calling his would-be-followers to repentance, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2).
Jesus came to transform the way we live and act. We will not get very far in the way of Jesus before we ourselves are called to repentance. But I wonder, does 80% of our attempts to repent fail, the way New Years’ resolutions often fail? Perhaps. Like with New Year’s resolutions, we often repent in general without a clear plan. What sort of changes should we make to our daily routines? What wrongs need to be made right by us? What reparations are required of us? How ought we to live instead? How can we support one another?
The Christian story tells us that real life change is possible because we don’t do it alone. The Spirit of Christ is at work in each of us, convicting us of sin and calling us to repentance (John 16:8). And that our daily devotional practices, gives us a deeper sense of the life God is calling us to. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, NRSV) And the community we call church is a resource for us as we each seek to follow Christ’s call together.
My hope for us as a church in 2022 is that we support one another in our quest to live out the spirituality of Jesus: loving God with all our heart, soul and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. This may require some self-examination on our part, and it will require us to lean on one another as we make specific changes to our lives which will allow us to love God and others more fully. But together we can press into the sort of lifestyle-transformation Jesus is calling us toward. Happy New Year!