Happy New Year!
I know that greeting is time sensitive, but since we’ve only been into 2019 for about a week, I think it still has relevance. There is no question any New Year can be stressful, and this year will no doubt have its own challenges.
Our view of opportunities or calamities is based on perspective. In considering the Bible in regard to the New Year, let’s consider some ideas from scripture that have often given me a feeling of hope for the future without regard to immediate circumstances.
The first is from Paul’s letter to the churches at Colossae, which existed not as a direct result of his presence but rather his influence. The name of the city as translated is “punishment.” Welcome to Punishment is not the kind of thing you can easily advertise.
In the early part of Paul’s letter, he writes: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1: 17 New International Version). In context, Paul is describing Christ’s role in creation as being there at the beginning and that continues to be the “glue” that keeps it all going. The idea that Christ has it all together — even when we don’t — encourages me whenever I look at a whole new year.
The statistical reality is, even at this early date, a number of resolutions have already been broken — or at least are beginning to show signs of cracking. Perhaps we have entered the bargaining stage wondering why we would ever resolve to take on something we historically have never had much success at changing. Why should we waste our energy to resist the inevitable?
The standard lifestyle changes, like eat more vegetables, get to bed on time or become better organized, are important but are only partially life altering. Even though the Julian calendar had been established in 45 B.C., I am sure Paul was not bemoaning broken resolutions when he wrote to the churches in Rome and said. “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18b NIV).
Paul was struggling with the very human problem of knowing, and even wanting to make, appropriate moral decisions and repeatedly failing. There are not enough self help strategies, special programs or clever sayings to make that problem go away.
If you are familiar with the context, you will remember Paul finds only one solution and it appears to fill his mind and heart with wonder and praise when he says: “Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25 NIV). Paul resolves that it is only in the completed work of Christ that we are able to deal with the ever-present human problem of making wrong choices.
This year, we may be very aware that we don’t have it all together and perhaps mistakes have already been made. The good news is the invitation still stands: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV).
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.