A friend recently forwarded me a blog post which asked “Have you chosen your word for the year yet?” The author shared her list of possible choices (cultivate, peace, stretch, share, believe, abide, cherish, notice, etc.) and her process for choosing a word (weeks of considering and testing out words). Eventually she landed on attentiveness.
Thinking that this was an interesting experiment, I began to consider what my word for 2017 would be. I knew instantly: resist. I need to resist trends in the United States and globally that are violently opposed to what the Jesus I follow taught about how to live in this world.
This is not about Republicans vs. Democrats or conservatives vs. liberals or small government vs. big government or protectionism vs. free trade or isolationism vs. global engagement or climate change vs. denial of climate change – although these issues are crucial and need to be thoroughly researched and processed.
This is about grace vs. mean-spiritedness, forgiveness vs. revenge, truth-telling vs. “truthful hyperbole,” appreciation for differences vs. mistreatment of those who are not like me. It is about love vs. hate, the needs of the community before my needs as an individual, sharing (information, attention, wealth) vs. grabbing what I need, civil discourse vs. name calling and shaming. Most importantly is about living with a moral center vs. acting on what is best for me in the moment.
In Colossians 3, the apostle Paul described the choice we are all faced with: live as a Christ- follower or live in our “old lives” of selfishness and denial.
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it” (Col 3: 12 -14, MSG).
As the new year begins, we need to ask ourselves these questions. Are we going to follow Christ or follow our own impulses? Are we going to live in our “old clothes” or in the new outfit that Christ gave us “custom-made by the Creator with his label on it.” Is our life made up of “doing what we feel like and grabbing whatever attracts [our] fancy” or is our behavior motivated by the fact that “everything is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.” And will we demand that our elected officials – beginning with our new president – face the same choices.
The Church and individual Christ-followers are living in a defining moment – a moment that the prophets of Israel and the post-resurrection disciples of Jesus would recognize and abhor. Either we follow Christ or we go down the slippery slope of self – interest and self-indulgence and denial of reality that saw the death of many civilizations that preceded ours. As for me and my house, we choose to resist.