Three Choices for the New Year
BY BETH BOLTHOUSE, LEAD TEAM MEMBER AND SMALL GROUP LEADER, FRONT PORCH CHURCH
A new year. An opportunity for positive changes, possibly re-doing something we left unfinished last year. With 8,760 hours ahead of us in the upcoming 365 days, what if we took time to follow three lifestyle principles God put forth in the little book of Micah, chapter 6, verse 8?
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
These three lifestyle decisions can make a tremendous difference in our own lives, as well as impact society at large for good. In fact, the prophet Micah reminds us that we already know what is good – the Bible is filled with recognitions that creation, loving God and loving others is good. Knowing this is good, but action is needed; yet if “doing” is without heart, then it becomes nothing more than empty shallow motions with narcissistic intentions. For change to take place, the heart has to be the motivator – a heart for God, and a heart for others.
Do justice…from your heart. In order to begin doing justice we must become filled with a profound sense that there is much INjustice in our world. It doesn’t take more than a quick scan of the news or social media to identify the enormous extent of unfair, unethical, discriminatory and just plain crooked things that take place on a daily basis.
And laying at the feet of injustice is despair, defeat, devastation. People are wounded in so many ways, trampled upon, shunned, disparaged. Loss abounds not just from death but from the multitude and myriad layers of life issues and challenges, and therefore grief is never-ending. People are left feeling abandoned and alone and without recourse for resolution or just plain having things made right. God knows the pain people carry around in their hearts; the Bible says He grieves with those who grieve, and blesses those who mourn. And he feels our pain as well; and the pain we feel when others suffer.
God has told us – do justice, act justly. This is not optional, this is his command, his directive. We are to care for people we know, people we don’t, and be advocating for those who are unable to care for themselves. He’s laid it out clearly, succinctly – “Stand up for what is honest, righteous, truthful, just. Choose righteousness over injustice. Be a source of integrity and making things right.”
Love kindness…with your heart. Kindness goes a long way toward healing the wounds brought about by injustice. The original Hebrew language in which the Bible was written uses the word kindness to include loyalty and showing mercy. To love in this way is to fully embrace goodness, to be intentional about being merciful, compassionate, gracious; to make this a choice in how we relate to others.
Mark Twain said, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." It permeates barriers that would normally make communication difficult. It makes a change that matters. Most importantly, it brings healing to the wounded soul. And we are all wounded on some level — perhaps by injustice, perhaps by the natural order of life, perhaps by unintentional actions of others.
Showing mercy or kindness is something we need choose, every day; a gift we give someone else that can increase hope and remind them they have worth and value regardless of anything else that is happening in their life.
Walk humbly…in your heart. This may be the most difficult of the three directives God has given. As human beings we want our own agenda, we like to be in control, and we all have some level of narcissistic process which drives us. Humility requires a certain degree of submission and surrender. It communicates to others that they matter; it focuses on serving and giving; it bows the knee to the Divine purpose and chooses trust rather than rebellion. It relies on God for our identity, rather than a continual striving to be more, get more, have more, doing whatever it takes for our own purposes. It challenges injustice to do what is right regardless of how it may impact us; it takes kindness to a new level of focusing on what others need. It is antithetical to the self-serving focus that ignores the homeless, the powerless, the abused, the suffering, the “less thans” in society who Jesus Christ himself hung out with because he understood their need for justice and kindness.
Three directives that now become three choices laid out for the new year. It is up to each of us to choose to embrace these so that 2018 will bring about increased healing for ourselves, for others, and even for our world at large. What difference we can make if we let go of the status quo and be a force for good so justice, kindness and humility are the order of the day. Mother Teresa, who so genuinely lived out the principles in Micah 6:8, gave us a tip for getting started: “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”
Take time today to choose justice, kindness and humility as the focus for the new year and be inspired by the little and big transformations that will take place around you.
Join us at Front Porch Church every Saturday at 5:00 p.m. for our weekly gathering – great music, good teaching, coffee and pastries! Embrace Books is a free bookstore dedicated to putting books into the hands of people who want them. Check our Facebook page frequently for updates and information about our services and podcasts.
Front Porch Church is located at 1050 W. Southern Ave. in Muskegon. Gatherings are Saturday evenings at 5:00 p.m. and all are welcome. Visit them online at FrontPorchChurch.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/FrontPorchChurch. Weekly teachings can be listened to at FrontporchChurch.com/teachings/.