Dear friends in Jesus Christ,
What a privilege it is to greet you in 2010. I have no clue as to whether you have found making New Year’s Resolutions a helpful practice or not. I confess to you that I have been ambivalent about them for many years. I see their value in giving focus and attention to the adoption of new behaviors or practices. But so often I have doubted my own discipline and commitment to keep faith with my resolve.
You and I know that there is nothing special or magical about claiming new best practices on a particular date. What matters is that we live a life where reflection is built in, ongoing. Hopefully this reflection leads to the resolve to act to let go of harmful things and to take on life – giving practices in all aspects of our lives.
Colossians 3:1-17 is a passage of holy writ that speaks to me over and over again. Breathe these words with me:
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your* life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.* These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.* But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive* language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal* there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord* has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ* dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.* And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
In this passage two distinct life orientations are juxtaposed and we are invited to claim the way that gives life. The life-giving path is the life patterned after Jesus Christ. Put another way, one pattern of life is focused inward, self absorbed and self gratifying. The pattern or path that leads to life is outwardly focused, oriented toward community. One pattern is violent, degrading and tears down. Contrast this with the invitation to kindness, love and building up others and the community.
I am persuaded that that it is to the latter that we are called. Now would be a great time to claim this pattern for living. It can and will make an enormous difference in the church and in the world. It may seem like a small and insignificant thing to be so claimed by God’s love in Jesus Christ that our way of being is marked by compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. But it is the little ostensibly insignificant things that make a world of difference. After all wasn’t it just Christmas and we were celebrating the gift of life in a fragile, vulnerable baby; a seemingly insignificant birth of just another poor kid. What a world of difference he has made.
What about us?
Yours in Christ,
Gregory Vaughn Palmer