January 3, 2017
Dear Clergy and friends in the ADSW
The New Year is upon us. Once again it is time for looking at our lives, seeing areas that need work, and committing to change. The world calls this making a New Year’s Resolution. In the church we call it repentance. Of course the problem with repentance and resolution is that we so often fail. We backslide and return to old patterns and behaviors. Sometimes I think the problem is that we don’t make a big enough resolution, we don’t repent and seek to change in a big way.
The problem with a little resolution is that it is easy to say, “Well, if I cheat this once it won’t make a very big difference.” The reality is that a little cheating in a minor repentance is a pretty big failure. The devil then comes and whispers, “You failed. You’re a failure. Don’t bother with repentance and change. You can’t do it anyway.” He uses shame to paralyze us, and then we succumb and forget about repentance.
I propose BIG repentance. A small failure in a BIG repentance doesn’t sink the whole ship. Instead we can say, “I’ve taken on a lot. This is a big change. Yes, I slipped a little, but I am going to push through and move ahead.” What kinds of changes are BIG? Perhaps we need to forgive a parent, or a friend, or even an enemy for a major hurt in our lives. Maybe God is calling us to lay down an idol like jealousy, anger, loneliness, or revenge. Perhaps we need to set aside an addiction like food, shopping, or an addictive substance or behavior. It may be that the Lord is calling us to study his Word and pray with our spouse. Maybe we need to trust money less and God more and learn to do so through the discipline of tithing. These are all BIG changes, and we will fail in many small ways. We must however refuse to listen to the voice of the accuser trying to fill us with shame, and instead listen to Christ who loves us and who was tempted in every way as we are. We have a great high priest who can sympathize with us. Any positive movement in any of these resolutions will yield big results.
Yes we mess up BIG time. But our God is bigger. His love is greater. His grace is sufficient. Let us repent and resolve BIG this year, and know you are His.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. J. Mark Zimmerman