Before we know it, 2021 will be upon us.
As the new year dawns afresh, millions of us will make new year’s resolutions, wishing and planning for a better, healthier, more disciplined, more prosperous life. And, inevitably, most of us will fall short of our New Year goals; in fact, surveys show that less than 10% of those resolutions are actually kept when all is said and done.
But that’s okay. Goals are healthy and good — but I would submit to you that there’s one resolution that matters more than any other. In the light of this one, all the other hoopla and chatter about New Year’s resolutions don’t matter all that much in the end.
To lay the groundwork, consider these words from Paul (emphasis mine):
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Think about it. Without love, does anything else matter?
Without love, does anything else matter?
Even personal goals that are totally spiritual, totally commendable, totally pure… If they are devoid of love, according to Paul, they are pretty much worthless.
Elsewhere, Paul writes:
“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more…” 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
Search the Scriptures (in particular, the words of Jesus, Paul, and John), and you’ll notice this truth again and again: as believers, we must love others. Not just other like-minded people, or people who like us, or people who love us too. No, we are called to love everyone.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…” (John 13:34).
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other…” (Romans 13:8).
“But I say to you, Love your enemies…” (Matthew 5:44).
Again and again, God explicitly commands this. One time, someone even asked Jesus about it, and He couldn’t have been clearer in His response:
“Jesus answered, ‘The most important [commandment] is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall 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: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’” Mark 12:29-31
As believers, we are called to love everyone. Not just other like-minded people, or people who like us, or people who love us too
There is no other commandment greater than these.
If you go back and look at the Old Testament laws, you’ll only find one time where that command to love your neighbour, which Jesus references, is mentioned. Here it is:
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Leviticus 19:18
Notice: what’s the opposite of loving your neighbour, according to Leviticus? It’s taking vengeance or bearing a grudge against them. That’s the alternative to loving them. (And remember, Jesus paints a very broad brush for defining who our neighbours are, in the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37).
So, stated simply, what should our goals be for the new year, and beyond? Instead of just losing weight or paying off debt or finding a significant other, let’s make sure we’re first simply aiming for this: Love your neighbour.
No matter the month or year, it’s always far better to earnestly pursue the most important resolution of all — to imitate Christ’s wonderful love, of which we are all beneficiaries (Ephesians 5:1-2).
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