Some of you have seen me wearing a red (actually bright orange) bracelet from http://www.connorwatch.org – a site for people to journey with Connor Williamson, a young man from my church in the US (before I moved to Kenya) who sustained a serious injury this past summer.
Connor’s dad, Eric, is the most prolific writer on the blog and has been a tremendous blessing to me, as he opens up to us and allows us to share in every step of this trying journey – especially his spiritual journey. On the 2nd day of 2009 (and 202nd day of Connor’s journey), Eric shared a post called Dead Man Walking that is the best take on new year’s resolutions that I have read this year. Here is most of it:
Why do we fail so badly to carry out our desires, even when they’re patently very important? And the answer I come up with is “Well, it’s because we’re failures”.
Now traditionally, what I (and many others) would do at this point is say something along the lines of “well, I just need to be a better Christian”. Have you ever heard anyone say “that guy’s a good Christian” or “you sure are a good Christian”? I hear those sorts of things a lot, and after thinking about it, I’ve decided that the idea that we need to be good Christians is a lie from the pit. Why? Because we aren’t called to be “good Christians”; we’re called to be LIKE CHRIST.
I can hear the objections now – “but those are the same thing”! or “well, that’s what I mean when I say “be a good Christian”. And my response is a categorical No. No two things could be farther apart than being a good Christian and being like Christ. What’s a good Christian? One who goes to church every time the doors are open, and who does all the right programs, and is involved in small groups, and is an upstanding member of the community – who keeps all the rules, and looks good doing it. A “good Christian” defines their Christianity by what they do – not by Who they know.
Don’t get me wrong – doing these things isn’t bad in and of itself. It’s when it becomes the end instead of the means that the lie appears. And that seems to be where many, many followers of Christ wind up – sitting in the pew each week, doing all the right things, and comfortable that their good-christian-ness is what they’re supposed to be about. But it’s not.
What should someone who is “like Christ” look like, then? Well, Jesus actively ministered to every person he came in contact with. I don’t mean “witnessed to” or “evangelized” or “invited to church”, I mean “took the time to see the person, determine his or her need, and address it in a fashion which brought glory to God”. While he spent some time in the synagogues and the temple, most of his ministry was in close contact with sinners – whores, and beggars, and people with nasty, nasty sicknesses. And tax collectors too! So I ask myself where I spend most of my time, and if the answer is not “helping the people that are right around me”, then a strong argument can be made that I am not very much like Christ.
So I should make a resolution to be more like Him this year, right? Nope. Resolutions are all about my efforts, and pretty weak ones they are. And it’s pretty clear from the Bible that I can’t be like Christ – Christ has to be Christ inside of me for it to work. Like Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Hey, wait a second – if it’s no longer I who live, doesn’t that mean I’m dead? Yep. Check out Colossians 3:3 – “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. Past tense. If you’re a follower of Christ, you, like me, are a dead man walking. And if Christ isn’t animating all of my movements, then I’m just like one of those shuffling corpses in the B movies from the 50s. Because I “have died”, and if Christ doesn’t live in me, then all I have is a poor substitute for living.
So my New Year’s resolution this year is really more of a decision to give up control rather than try to do more. I want to “let the peace of Christ rule in (my) heart” (Colossians 3:15); I want to “let the word of Christ dwell in (me) richly” (Colossians 3:16).
Only one problem – I’m a back seat driver. In order for someone else to drive, it’s necessary for me to allow them to. So pray for me! I’ll be praying for you…
Father, in Jesus’ name, help me not to forget that I have been crucified with Christ. That it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. That the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Help me as I seek to let You reign in me in 2009, as I let the word of Christ dwell in me. Amen.