It is almost the time of year when people begin to fish out an old notebook to jot down a bulleted list of New Year’s resolutions. I’m a sucker for it, too, so do not mistake this as a critique. There is something about a blank canvas that seems so appealing, is there not? All of our bad habits — we can throw them out! All of the things we never have time for — let’s find some minutes for them! All of our dreams — let’s chase them!
I took a class on the infancy narratives this semester and thus have spent a great deal of time studying the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke over the past few months. It wasn’t until after my final assignment was due that I flipped the page in my Bible to Luke 4 where Jesus is now grown up. It’s one of my favorite passages, and I couldn’t help but think how it can serve as a measuring stick for our 2020 and beyond goals as Christians.
In this passage, Jesus stands up in the Synagogue, picks up the reading for the day — Isaiah 61 — and reads:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
He rolls it up, sits back down, feels all of the eyes on him, and proclaims — “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Promptly, he is thrown out of the synagogue and the people attempt to throw him off the cliff.
The first real message that Jesus delivers in the Gospel of Luke explains that Jesus came to
bring good news to the poor
proclaim release to the captives
recover sight to the blind
let the oppressed go free
proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
When we make our New Year’s resolutions as individuals and churches, what if we compared them to this list?
Are our actions bringing good news to the poor or spreading the gap of inequality?
Are we proclaiming freedom or confinement to the captives? Are we putting people in cages or are we breaking chains?
Are we agents of healing in our places or are we powers that bring devastating pain?
Are we oppressing others? Are we indifferent to oppression? Or are we working to fight against those who wield power and harm others? Are we holding swords or plowshares in our hands?
When we think about what our goals are for this new year, I hope we take a sobering look at the words of Jesus. Instead of looking to find a comforting word, we ought to see a lifestyle that pushes and challenges our deeply seated comforts and convictions.