Changing the world
If such things existed in his day, the Apostle Paul would have been a great guest to have on the air during an end of the year podcast or TV show. Those who embrace his writings know his wisdom, conviction, passion and prayer life changed the world because when he met Jesus his world literally changed.
His goal is for our worlds to change, too.
While some today may question the social reforms he advocated in his day, it is important to note that Paul was the quintessential theologian of the New Testament first and a social commentator second. As a belligerent soul who met and was literally transformed by Jesus, he shared what people wanted—and needed—to hear.
Hebrews 12:1 is a perfect example of a message then that speaks to our changing world at the start of the New Year. To hear this in full, imagine Paul speaking in front of a packed house. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
Christians don’t do the whole New Year’s Eve resolutions thing very well (if at all) because each day we run with endurance this race God has set before us. Is this race easy? Ha! We all know the answer—and by ‘we’ I don’t just mean Christians; I include those who watch Christians and scoff at what are our imperfections.
Here’s the truth. Sometimes, there are challenges (or weights) that slow us down during this race. Sometimes we don’t run at all. We crawl. Sometimes we look for an exit sign. Sometimes we take a seriously wrong turn. Sometimes we run in circles or head off in the wrong direction.
But that’s when this huge crowd of witnesses Paul talks about comes in to the one hurting or struggling.
Many, many times before fulltime ministry and now in fulltime ministry, I’ve been lifted by the people of the church, and this has made a huge difference. Actually, this has made the difference.
If you’re floundering, stop. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stop. If you’re tired of hitting your head up against a wall, stop. Get in the church that has people say (and do) this: “Hey, I know you’re in a tough spot now from what you share. And in love—God’s big, perfect love—I will pray for you.”
Here is more truth. You don’t need once-a-year New Year’s resolutions when those around you have your back 24/7/365 and gently and tenderly hold your broken or bruised heart. This is the crowd of witnesses Paul is speaking of here.
Everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23). The perfect Christian circle doesn’t exist. The perfect Christian church is an ideal, not an actuality. Yet it works.
Be made new in this New Year. When in Christ, or, more accurately, when we are striving to be in Christ, Paul opens what we need to hear and hold. “The old life is gone; a new life has begun (2 Corinthians 5:17b).”
Change the world one day at a time. Start with yourself. Lose every weight that slows you down. Drop the sin that trips you up. Begin this new life in this New Year. Crawl, walk or run with endurance the race God has not just set before you, but with all the others around you in an imperfect church of love who will do for you what has been done for them, and that, dear soul, is to pick you up when you fumble, flop, fall or fail.
This blog first appeared in The Susquehanna Independent on December 28th, 2018.