Today is January 1, 2013. I look out my home office window to a crisp winter morning graced with blue sunny skies. ‘13 is already positioned to be a good year. The normal routine for many people is to make some New Year’s resolutions—losing weight being the number one resolve, at least with those in the first world. People in the third world, and even the homeless or poor in the first world, won’t likely make that a resolution, as their having a lack of food is more an issue than their having an abundance of it. Other resolutions for a lot of people would be to quit smoking, quit drinking, spend more time with family and friends, and start an exercise routine. These are all good resolves to improve the quality of life, as “today is the first day of the rest of our life.” Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives.” My mother, who just before turning 87, spent her last bed-ridden day on May 5, 2012. Her cancer infested body literally snuffed out her life. We miss her this holiday season. I am reminded of rock group Nickelback’s song “If This Was Your Last Day.” If you want to read the thought provoking lyrics, get them with a Google search. How will we spend our days in ’13? Let me offer three resolutions to improve the quality of life in ’13:
1. Resolve to love well. Life is about relationships—with family, friends, and fellow citizens. Most classic movies, music, and literature are about love. This morning I typed the word “love” on Google. Guess how many hits it registered? Seven billion, six hundred million! No wonder the Beatles sang, “All We Need is Love.” We know the Bible reveals to the human race “God is Love.” Our quality of life will improve dramatically if we love well. We will also fulfill the central reason for life’s purpose, as Jesus stated: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). In ‘13 let us resolve to love well.
2. Resolve to lead well. Many of us are spiritual leaders. We occupy places and positions of influence and initiative in our churches and our communities. We struggle to initiate change as we also deal with conflict. Spiritual leadership is more about facilitating transformation than it is about fulfilling transactions. Over the past several weeks I have been preparing for a Tuesday evening course I will teach in a local Bible college on “Spiritual Leadership.” I have been immersed in the enormous array of literature and biblical revelation on the elusive subject of “leadership.” What is it? How does one effectively practice it? How do leaders lead well? It all depends on the paradigms, identities, and practices that they operate with. I believe that if we resolve to lead well as spiritual leaders (whether working in the secular world or in the religious world), we must change from a hierarchical command and control leader paradigm to that of a “servant” paradigm, with a shepherd identity, who practices love well. It is about “servantship” not “leadership.” When we serve and love we will lead. In ‘13 let us resolve to lead well.
3. Resolve to live well. How do we live well? That’s a broad question. Don’t we live well when we spend our days as wise and responsible, productive and ethical citizens? Socrates remarked, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” He said this at his trial for heresy, for encouraging his students to challenge the accepted beliefs of the time and think for themselves. It’s always good to examine and evaluate one’s life on a regular basis. How did we live in 2012? What mistakes did we make and why? What successes did we enjoy and why? What challenges do we face in the days ahead and how will we approach them? William Wallace in the movie Braveheart trumpeted, “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” Let me suggest that if we resolve to live well, we don’t merely adopt a set of worthy practices. It goes deeper than that, something spiritual, even theological. Paul wrote this to the Colossians, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him” (Col. 2:6). When we choose to receive, believe, welcome, King Messiah Jesus as Lord (salvation) we must continue to live, walk, follow him (sanctification). This is the abundant life, the discipled life, the consecrated life, the fruitful life, practiced in union with Christ Jesus as Lord of our lives. When we practice a magnificent surrender to Christ Jesus as Lord and continue to live in him, we will love, lead, and live well. In ‘13 let us resolve to live well.