Happy New Year! New Year. New resolutions. New you. Most of us make New Year’s resolutions. And most of us don’t make those New Year’s resolutions come true.
But here’s something that’s already true. We don’t have to make it happen; it already is: You are a child of God. God loves you. Always has. Always will. All we have to do is receive that love and pass it on. That’s what a saint is and does. A saint is NOT a perfect person. A saint, said the church father Gregory of Nyssa, is someone who simply is God’s friend. A saint is anyone who is God’s friend. How do you do that? By being fully alive in love.
Jesus said: Love God. Love neighbor. Love. God is love. Therefore, we should be loving, too.
So, if and as you make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or go to the gym or quit smoking or drinking, yes, do those. All of those intentions are right and good. But beyond self-improvement, we should commit ourselves first and foremost to simply become who we already are in Jesus Christ. And to do that, all we need to do is remember who we are – and whose we are – and then act accordingly.
We, who belong to the God of love (see verse 6-7), should just be loving – because doing that not only changes us; that changes everything.
Humans are kind – and mean. Caring – and callous. Capable of great good – and great harm. Human nature is unchanging, but you can change. Human history is tragic, but it can be hopeful – if and when ordinary people like you and me befriend God and live life God’s way. When we do that, the power of God is unleashed in life-altering, history-changing ways.
Case in point: Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky was a stand-up comedian. He played a man on a TV show who was elected President of Ukraine. And then – folks, you can’t make this up! – he was actually elected President of Ukraine. Zelensky pledged to fight the corruption of those who were doing Russia’s bidding. But Russia’s current czar didn’t like that. So, pharaoh sent his army to depose Zelensky and bend Ukraine to his will. But a stand-up comedian stood up to tyranny. And Ukraine stood up as well to protect themselves and their democracy against an authoritarian thug, who bombs hospitals and schools. Standing for what is right; protecting the rights of free people against oppression; a stand-up comic has become the 21st century’s Winston Churchill. One person changing the world, turning the tide against evil because he is simply willing to do the right thing.
Another person who showed similar moral courage this year is another “nobody” – a lowly intern named Cassidy Hutchinson. When powerful men did nothing, taking the 5th and refusing to testify, a young woman decided to stand for what is right. She took the stand at the January 6th Committee hearings and did a remarkable thing in Washington, D.C. – she told the truth.
Hutchinson’s first attorney Stefan Passantino, who – and folks, you can’t make this up! – was the White House ETHICS Lawyer told her this: “You aren’t committing perjury if you say you can’t remember. We want to focus on protecting the President. Let’s just get you in and out. We know you’re loyal. We’re going to take care of you” But Hutchinson knew that was wrong.
She said, “If I’m going to pass the mirror test [referring to the ability to look at oneself in the mirror] then I need to do what is right.”
Maybe that’s what our collective New Year’s resolution should be: I’m not going to do anything that will not pass the mirror test. This year I’m not going to anything that would make me ashamed to look at myself in the mirror.
Here are two ordinary people – an actor and an intern – “nobodies” who just did what was right. The Bible tells us over and over again that God works through ordinary people to confront evil rulers and right ancient wrongs. After all, it was a couple of rural “nobodies” named Joseph and Mary who gave birth to the Messiah in Bethlehem, changing the world forever.
If you do what is right, you will probably not make headlines, but you will make a difference. When you turn the other cheek; go the second mile; are willing to be last so that the last can be first, you are a saint. You are God’s friend. You are part of the Kingdom of God. You are changing the world. When you forgive someone who shouldn’t be forgiven; when you stand up for those who are beaten down; when you are compassionate, generous, humble, and hopeful, you are the faithful fulcrum upon which and through whom God lifts our dying, dark world toward God’s living, saving light.
Live in the light. Be the light. You are called; so be resolved. Resolve to be fully alive in love: Fully aligned with what is right – fully animated and resurrected as a new creation in Jesus Christ today.