Paul tells us to "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience."(Colossians 3:12). Sounds like good advice for the new year. But how do we do that? I think there are three simple rules for bringing our lives into alignment with what Paul is talking about:
1st Rule) Always be compassionate.
2nd Rule) Awareness beats ignorance (or always try to understand as much as you can).
3rd Rule) The ends never justify the means (Don't forsake your principles or good behavior to get your own way).
That's it. Just three rules and you can live 2019 with the peace of Christ in your heart. Let me show how each of these rules is demonstrated at this holiday time.
First, Always (yes Always) be compassionate. Christ came into our world as a living, breathing, demonstration of God's compassion. He lives where we live, sharing our joys and our sorrows. As Christ's brothers and sisters, we should always seek to understand the experiences and difficulties of others and live compassionately.
Second, Awareness beats ignorance. It's a lazy and dangerous thing to depend upon others to know things that you should know. You have a right to know what our politicians are doing in our name around the world. Are we bringing the peace that the angels sang of, or are we letting someone with the morals of King Herod set our foreign policy? In matters of religion, you should never be content to let your pastor know more about spiritual things than you do. The bible is an open book. Read it. When Jesus was 12, he went to the temple and questioned the elders. I don't think this means that he came into this world with all the answers crammed into his head. God gave his son an inquiring and intuitive mind. He gave one to you too. Have you lost it?
The third rule you've probably heard many times before. The ends never justify the means. But have you ever thought about it? At Christmastime we tell our kid that they can be honest about their ends, or the gifts that they want (tell Santa your ends/wants). But we caution them that the only way to get what they want is to "be good." Being good is the means to getting your ends. What we don't tell our kids is that "being good" is a pretty good "means" or process for life. There are certain means or processes that simply work. If I want to make rice, the process involves measuring the rice, measuring the water, and measuring the cooking time. If I get rushed or lazy, if I let some other end dictate what I'm doing, the rice burns, ends up sticky or soupy. If I let the end of wanting the rice served in half the time ruin my cooking behavior, my end will justify a set of bad means. And bad means always lead to trouble.
When will we learn this? Taken together, the three rules are a process or means for having a good new year. The process begins with compassion. It continues on with seeking to understand. It comes to maturity with examining the behaviors and means that we take in living every day. There are no short-cuts to character. Good character is built, one faithful process and well ordered day at a time. The recipe for next year involves discipleship. Learning how to do things right. Seeking to know what lies behind everything. And always, being compassionate.