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Resolutions or Vision?

Recently I was asked if I was going to make any New Year resolutions.  I thought about it for a moment and responded, “No, probably not.”   Afterward I reflected on my own answer and realized that, over the years, I have not been very successful in keeping my resolutions.  I think my lack of success has been because my resolutions were really not resolutions, but mere wishful thinking.   Resolutions imply commitment and discipline – wishful thinking does not.  In fact, the only resolution I ever remember faithfully keeping was to not eat any Peanut M & M’s for a whole year.  I was motivated by the twin factors of a cholesterol count that was creeping upward and carrying a few too many pounds.

Whether we make resolutions or not or keep them or not, I have a hunch there is a deeper issue behind all of the resolution-hype that comes with the New Year.  The deeper issue may be this: It is the acknowledgement that it is important to live with a vision; a vision of something more; a vision of what we can be and what life can be; a vision of something more that we are and know right now.  Without a vision of something more; something beyond where we are; a life that is more than who we are at the moment, we can easily become like a ship without a rudder tossed to and fro at the mercy of the waves.  We can become stagnant, stuck, unyieldingly dogmatic, cynical and even intolerant.   The book of Proverbs says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  (Proverbs 29:18)  I trust that to be true.  Without a vision one can die and wither spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

That is what the early disciples and followers experienced in Jesus.  Jesus provided his followers with an alternate vision of who they could be and of what life could be.  The early followers became captivated by Jesus and his vision of a new reality and new consciousness he called the Kingdom of God.  He even taught them to pray, “Thy kingdom come on earth…”  They staked their lives on Jesus’ vision of reality.  They began to make his vision their reality.  As I immerse myself in the depths of the four gospels, there are four general things that jump out that I can say about Jesus’ vision of an alternative reality and new consciousness that captivated and called the disciples beyond the limits of their own humanity.  Of course, there are many more than four, but these four provide a place to begin.

First, it’s a vision that called them beyond fearNumerous times Jesus implored his disciples to “not fear.”  Jesus knew about the power of fear.  He knew how fear could distort and twist and disfigure a human life.  He knew how quickly fear could turn into dehumanizing prejudice and even violence.  Repeatedly when fear was gripping his disciples by the throats, he led his disciples through and beyond their fear.

Second, it’s a vision that called them beyond tribal identities.  The gospels are saturated with examples of being called beyond narrow and parochial tribal identities.  Simeon sings of a light to the Gentiles; Matthew describes foreigners coming from the East to worship Jesus; Luke describes diverse peoples hearing the message spoken in their own language at Pentecost.  Jesus holds up Samaritans and Gentiles as models of faith.  Inspired by Jesus’ vision, the apostle Paul declares that in Christ there is “neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free.” (Galatians 3:28)  Jesus’ vision called them beyond narrow and ancient tribal identities to create a new reality, a new kind of community, a different world.

Third, the gospels clearly show that Jesus’ vision called his followers beyond the strict limits of their religion.  Religion, by its very nature, can easily become dogmatic, inward focused, defense and draw strict, legalistic boundaries.  Jesus frequently trumped religious law with grace, love and compassion.   He and his disciples were harshly criticized for breaking super sacred Sabbath laws, touching lepers and the unclean, including those outside the boundaries of religion, and blurring the lines between sinners and the righteous.  He even affirmed the basic humanity of their enemies and called upon his followers to show love even for them.

Fourth, Jesus’ vision called them beyond a sense of their own mortality.  After he was gone, they continued to experience him as a living presence which empowered them to continue to live by his vision and shape their lives by his vision-and even die for the vision of the new reality and new consciousness they experienced in Jesus.

Perhaps on this first day of 2015, it is a good time not to consider resolutions necessarily, but go deeper and reflect upon what vision it is (or is not) that is guiding our lives and, perhaps to a greater degree, incorporate the vision of Jesus into our consciousness.

 

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