The new year has arrived and with it comes vivid expectation of what could be. The new year is a time of dreaming. A time when visions of self improvement seem to be endless; when all that stands between ourself and future improved self is us.
It is a time when we also realise that, year after year and time after time, we have a certain inadequacy to enact change. A time of year when Christian blog post after blog post reminds us that resolutions are like grasping at the wind, citing Ecclesiastes, "Vanities of vanities". Indeed, it is a tiring time.
So this year, I would like to spark in your mind a different challenge that strays from the age old tale of self-improvement. This year I would challenge you to begin proclaiming the beloved.
The fear of being unloved
One commonality that all humanity shares at one point or another is the stark fear that we are unloved. Even worse, this fear often stirs up thoughts that we are unlovable. If life begins to teach us one thing, it is this: this cruel fallen world does not have the tendency to show mercy.
Some of us know this more powerfully than others but as time moves forward and the pain sets in; the truth of being beloved moves further from our hearts, and becomes absent from our minds.
So, what can we do? What answer do we have for this pain in the world? The well-known church pastor and author Bill Hybels consistently states that the church is the best hope for this failing and hurting world. In fact, the church is God's hope for this failing world.
So, what can the church do for a world that is shrivelling under the weight of its own wretchedness?
Loving the world
We can start by echoing the proclamation that the world is Christ's beloved. In the midst of a world that has become an echo chamber for hatred, we proclaim the eternal truth that each individual, no matter what their civil standing is; they are the beloved of God. The darkness cannot flourish when the light of love shines on it.
Christ entered this world to save it from the plague of death that had fallen upon it. This world had strayed so far from the love of God that death began to hold all of humanity in it's powerful sway. Jesus was God's declaration that each individual is loved by God no matter how vile that person was in the eyes of humanity.
Jesus came and ate with the scoundrels of his time. He sat down with the people of this world who had made a practise of harbouring hate in their hearts and he stated their belovedness to them.
When the people he came to save turned against him and began to beat and torture him, his lament was not over his own suffering but over the inability of those people to see and understand that they were loved by God. He knew that when a person sees and understands this, everything changes.
Changing in 2017
He knows that when we see and understand this, we change. So, in 2017. Instead of striving to improve yourself or your standing in life. I challenge you to begin to call out the belovedness of those around you.
I urge you to devote your resolve to improving the lives of others by simply reminding them that they can be loved. Remind the world that they are loved and tell them why they are loved. We are all the beloved of God.
And until the Church understands that it needs to be an echo chamber for this message that each individual is the beloved of God, it will always find itself spinning its wheels.
Dan Peterson (25) lives near Chicago, Illinois, USA where he works in refugee resettlement with World Relief. He enjoys discovering old books, new places, and good coffees. His dream is to summit a mountain on every continent and have a pet pygmy marmoset.
Dan Peterson's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/dan-peterson.html