GROWING IN GRACE
It’s that time again. New Year’s resolutions give us the chance to make goals to grow into better people. And, as disciples of Jesus Christ, making plans to grow and living into those plans are a big part of what we call “growing in grace.” Just in case you’re behind and haven’t made any resolutions yet, I’ve got five options here for you. Choose one of them. Try all of them. But I think any of them would help us grow in God’s love in the coming year.
- Be more kind. I don’t care how you vote, what cable news station you watch, or where you choose to eat on a Friday night – we can all agree that our world is very angry and could use a little more kindness. How can you be more kind in your daily life? Does it mean making a point to offer a kind word to someone daily? Does it mean asking yourself the hard question, “Does this spread kindness?” before you post or share some outrageous article on social media? Does it mean trying more intentionally to give others, especially those you don’t agree with, the benefit of the doubt?
- Do some good. Life gets busy. And it’s easy to let the routine and stress close in around you, putting up blinders to the needs of the world around you. Where could you do some good? Could you volunteer in a new way? Could you rearrange your life, maybe even give up something self-serving, in order to serve others? I bet your local church could point you to a place in your community where you could spread goodness to others in a new way this year.
- Give more generously. The Bible tells us that we are called to give with a “glad and generous heart” (Acts 2) because being a “cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9) is how we are supposed to respond to God who gives us everything. What could you cut back on your family budget in order to be more generous for the sake of God’s mission? Is God calling you to rearrange your finances in some other way – estate giving maybe?
- Worship more frequently. I know “regular attendance” these days is being present in worship once a month. But seriously, does attending worship 12 times per year really express how grateful you are to God? Does it really come close to telling the story of God’s love in your life? Could you resolve to increase your worship attendance by just one extra Sunday per month this year? Just think about what that will do in your life … and in the life of your local church!
- Focus more on what unites us and less on what divides us. Look, it’s easy to get on your high horse and do the whole, “if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything,” routine. And our world is getting more and more organized around separating people into tribes and then having those tribes be at war with other tribes because they’re different. But Jesus prays that we might be united, even (and especially) when unity is tough (John 17). And being connected is a really big piece of who we are as the people called Methodist. In 2017, just imagine what our churches, what our conference, what our denomination could do if we focused more on the things that unite us – a spirit of love and grace, a shared mission, etc. – and less on the things that divide us.
May you have a blessed 2017. I can’t wait to see and hear about what God is doing in your life and in the life of your local church!
The Rev. Ben Gosden is the pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Savannah. He can be reached at email@example.com.