Saturday 5 January 2013

One Step at a Time

I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

So far as we can tell, people have habitually marked the beginning of new years. And the resolve at such times to ‘do better’ goes back at least to ancient Babylon. Something about the turn of the calendar carries with it a pervasive and powerful desire for a fresh start, a clean slate.

Approximately 50% of us make resolutions each New Year, most of them to do with becoming healthier, managing money, and improving ourselves – all significant as well as offering telling windows into things that matter. And yet, research confirms what we already suspect – perhaps from personal experience – that the majority of us will abandon our resolves by mid-January, with many of us not making it beyond the first week.

Still, the making of resolutions at least implies a felt-need for transformation of some kind – a need that Christians of all people should understand. That need, and our failure to meet it, is addressed in the gospel, which declares that the heart of the Christian faith is not mere potential for self-improvement, still less the need to secure ‘salvation’ through following a certain ‘code’, but freedom – leaving us free from the pressure of having to do things to gain favour with God, free from trying to prove ourselves to others, free to submit to Christ.

The gospel not only explains the need for change, but also provides the power to bring it about, a power which comes from the finished work of Christ on the cross, from who God is and what he has done, with the Spirit as the agent of transformation in our lives.

The apostle Paul’s image of ‘walking’ to describe the Christian life is particularly apt. Unlike the dramatic moments of decision or fresh resolve we sometimes make at this time of the year, the walking metaphor suggests a more regular pattern, ongoing – mundane even – a process which occurs in the everyday places where we live and where we work – on the commute, in the home, at the office, at the gym, in the checkout queue.

In such contexts, we discover, it’s the consistent, everyday actions that make a difference, as we continue to walk step-by-step – our lifelong process of transformation into the likeness of Christ through the ongoing work of the Spirit.

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