Of the Making of Lists…

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Many people enjoy making lists. Shopping lists, “honey do” lists, Christmas lists… all are tackled with great enthusiasm.If you are a linear thinker like myself, lists help you to process information, measure accomplishment and plan. I’ll even go so far as to make lists of the lists that I want to create in the future! Sad, I know.

Every New Year’s Day, millions of people around the world (billions?) make resolutions of things they want to do or change in the new year. Usually those “pledge lists” include the usual items of “lose weight,” “swear less” or “stop smoking.” Some might resolve these days to spend less time on Facebook; or maybe even to spend less time on the Internet (gasp!).

While most lists focus on the physical or mental side of life, I wonder how many lists include items of a more spiritual nature? You know… that nebulous, mysterious thing called the “spirit” that you know that you have but cannot see, feel or touch? Yeah, that thing. According to the Bible, the spirit and the soul are at the center of our beings — the items of life that give us… well… life! The “heart” is the term used to describe the spirit’s “brain” so to speak (that sounded confusing). It is thing upon which we rely to make decisions, birth emotions, and center our beliefs. From the heart comes worship, comes the will, and, as a result of our fleshly states, comes sin. The heart is an important thing! Without taking care of our hearts, our lives will suffer immeasurably.

The apostle Paul loved to make lists, as well. Unfortunately, in most of our English translations his lists are “shmushed” together into prose so that they are hard to recognize. Romans 12 is one of his lists — instructions to members of the church in Rome about how they should live out life with one another and with a hostile world around them. He lists imperative command after command in semi-rhythm, as if he was making a resolution list on New Year’s Day!

As another New Year is upon us, it serves us well to look at Romans 12:9-21 to see a list that is completely worthy of resolving to follow in this year (and every year!). Paul writes:

  • Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good.
  • Show family affection to one another with brotherly love.
  • Outdo one another in showing honor.
  • Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord.
  • Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.
  • Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.
  • Be in agreement with one another.
  • Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble.
  • Do not be wise in your own estimation.
  • Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes.
  • If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.
  • Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath.
  • Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.
    (Rom 12:9-21, HCSB)

That’s quite a list, isn’t it! Seems daunting, too. Who can follow such resolutions? Well, I think both you and I can do it. And I think the key lies in one core concept of following Jesus Christ:  humility.  No man or woman can follow Jesus and remain proud. You can believe in Him, sure, but you cannot follow a Savior who denied Himself, took up His cross and died for others. Humility is a core attribute of a heart following Jesus Christ. Let’s look at Paul’s list again:

Show affection, show honor, love honestly, serve the Lord, rejoice in hope, show patience in affliction, share with others in need, bless your enemies, be sympathetic, agree with others, do not be proud, live life among the meek, do not think yourself wise, do not repay evil, conquer evil with good.

At the core of this list is humility. Paul wrote earlier in Romans 12 these sentences: “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.”

Perhaps this year it is a good idea to start your resolution list with something like: “I resolve to be more humble in my interactions with other Christians and with the unbelieving world.” And then follow that up with, “Lord, please give me the faith and love to follow my Lord Jesus into such humility.” We can make all the resolutions we desire but without God’s help… no significant change will occur.

I will attest that the Christians I have admired the most and most sought to follow were the ones who were the most humble. They did not have “an air” about them of greatness or “sainthood.” Instead, they spoke honestly, quietly and meekly. I want to be like them because in them I see Jesus Christ. And in the same manner I want others to be able to see Christ in me.

If you are like me then you know that we tend to trip over our pride way too many times (and choke on it other times!). But the path of a follower of Jesus Christ is to pursue the path of humility. “Do not be proud,” Paul commanded, nor be wise in your own eyes. Instead share with others, rejoice in hope, and live in peace. I pray for such a year for both you and me!