The three things I hope to accomplish in 2014 are really quite simple.
- I will endeavor to love God more passionately.
- I will endeavor to take the plank out of my own eye.
- I will endeavor to love my neighbor as myself.
Loving God more passionately means loving the people God loves. I cannot claim to love God, whom I have never seen, if I don’t love my brothers and sisters whom I have seen (1 John 4.20). Jesus loved the zealot and tax collector. He loved the doubters and deniers. He loved those that got their theology wrong and those that got it right. He did not see them as problems to solve but as people that needed life and love and direction.
The challenge is that I will tend to focus on God’s wrath and judgment because that is the curse of the Fall. We became like God knowing good and evil. My only job is to love like Jesus loved. That is the only thing I can really do. Love requires no special ability or insight into a person’s motives. It does not require omniscience.
I can love people, friend and foe alike, because Jesus showed me how and the Holy Spirit empowers me.
Taking the plank out of my eye is vitally important. The Apostle Paul writes, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.” One of my Podcast Pastors said that this means each of us should view ourselves as the worst of sinners. That really changes the way I look at the people around me.
Spiritual arrogance and pride walk with me. I look around me and see adulterers and murderers. I see the arrogant and proud. I see all of the faults of humanity around me but do not see it in the mirror. This spiritual pride and arrogance are the blinders I wear. They keep me ignorant of my own need for a savior and point out the failings in all those around me.
If, in some moment of grace, I happen to consider my sins as worse than anyone around me, I approach people differently. They become fellow travelers and companions on the way. By dealing with the plank in my own eye, I can encourage and love those around me humbly and patiently.
Loving my neighbor as myself is my guide. My opinions matter to me, that’s why I hold them. I believe the things I believe because I believe them to be true. Of course, I could be wrong about everything I believe but that change is not going to happen if I get yelled at or called names.
My opinions have changed and matured not because someone belittled me but because someone listened to me. They challenged me to think differently. They did not attack me. It was because these people were kind and patient toward me that I did not think I was being attacked. In turn, I was more willing to explore things outside of my comfortable beliefs and I grew. Why would I do anything differently for those around me?
Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe we all want many of the same things. I know I want to be listened to, loved and accepted. I know I want friends. I know I want to be understood. Does that sound so different than you or anyone you know?
That’s the three things I want to work on this year. What are you working on?