January is coming to an end. This leads me to ask you one question, how’s your New Year’s resolution going? Statistics suggest that most people in the United States of America make one, but less than ten percent of people follow them through to fruition. Personally, I don’t make one. If you were to ask me why, I would probably go on a pretentious ramble about how if we need to make a change in our lives then we should do it whenever we realize it, not because of a new year. The real reason is that I have failed on every single New Year’s resolution that I have made. So, I decided to just give up on them all together. Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with making the cliché resolution. Any attempt to try and better yourself is a worthwhile cause.
Most resolutions are based around having better health, saving money, or learning something new. Again, there is nothing wrong with any of those. However, I want to offer up a different goal for us to strive for this year. In his book The Furious Longing of God, Brennan Manning wrote that if he were able to change one thing about his life, then he would simply focus on, “Doing the next thing in love.” What if that became our focus everyday with everyone that God brings into our paths?
We have no neutral interactions with those with whom we engage. We have a choice; we can either make someone’s day better or worse. Sure, there are instances, such as passing by someone in the grocery store, when we are not around them long enough to have any sort of impact. Although, I would argue that giving them a kind smile (much more easily done without masks) is still a positive interaction. Think about how many people that you speak to each day, even just a few words. Are those words kind or are they speaking negatively towards them or others? How many people would appreciate you holding the door open for them? What about the waiter or waitress at the restaurant? Are you treating them with love? [A brief aside, most restaurant workers say that the worst time to work is during the after-church crowd because of the way they get treated. We need to do better. The brief aside is finished.] I haven’t even mentioned family, friends, co-workers, etc. We spend our lives with and around people, even in a pandemic. Are we treating everyone with love? Are we treating everyone with the love in which Christ gives to us?
1 John 4:10-11 reads, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” That’s it, folks. We are to love others because God loves us, period. There is no caveat attached to those verses. Go read 1 John for yourself if you don’t believe me. There is nothing that says that we are only to love those who love us, that we like, who are easy to love, or if we feel like it. It simply says that we are to love others. This was also listed by Jesus as one of the two commandments in which we are to follow, love God and love people. I would argue that you cannot be doing the former unless you are doing the latter.
Our goal each and every day should be to show God’s love to all that we meet. Or as Brennan Manning put it, “Doing the next thing in love.” That should be what we have resolved to do. We should not love others so that we get anything in return. Our love should not be quid pro quo (Latin for, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours). We should give it freely, just as God gives us his love freely. We need to treat everyone with kindness and respect. We have no idea what anyone is going through or what’s going on in their heads. I do know this, offering love can quickly turn someone’s day (or life) around. Try to be conscious about how you are treating those who you will interact with today. You can either affect them positively or negatively. Choose love, just as God chose love for you.