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The Year of Just Living

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...and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? -Micah 6:8 (NKJV)

As the New Year dawned, I sat down to do what I always do when the opportunity for a "makeover" presents itself. The beginning of the New Year has always been one of those prime opportunities for me to "forget those things that are past" and to set my sights on "things that lie ahead."(i) It is a sort of mental if not a spiritual exercise to wash my hands of the failings, missed opportunities, squandered time, and unfinished business of the previous year, then to open the book of the New Year on a fresh clean page. But as in the past, as soon as I begin looking at what might lie ahead, I spoil the page by writing out my goals and aspirations and resolutions for the year to come.

This has always proven to be a huge mistake, for in going through this exercise year after year I have inevitably set myself up for failure from the very start. As I reviewed the page of this year's resolutions I realized that there is no greater likelihood of my fulfilling this year's resolutions than those of any previous year. The well intentioned first page of my new and better year already contains the seeds of failure. There is absolutely no way I can succeed - it is delusional to even think it's possible. So I began the year by ripping out the first page, and leaving it blank - no written goals - and therefore no prescriptions for failure! But within a minute I began feeling so naked and vulnerable without any resolutions or plan for this year, at the very least it would have been good to have at least one resolution on which to focus during the next twelve months.

I recall reading a very interesting book by a secular Jewish writer who, one year, determined that he would focus the entire year on trying to live biblically. He resolved to follow every single rule in the Bible as literally as possible, Old Testament as well as New in order to come to a clear understanding of his spiritual roots. The book details his experiences of trying to live biblically and recounts the often humorous story of his efforts and his growing realization that there are many strange rules and rituals that are simply impossible to keep in the modern world.

Several years later, inspired by Jacobs experience of trying to live biblically, Ed Dobson, an American pastor resolved to focus an entire year on trying to live like Jesus by eating, praying, talking, and acting as Jesus did. Obeying the biblical command not to trim his beard, which is a command that Jesus would have obeyed as a Jewish teacher, Dobson let his beard grow long and shaggy. "It's a pain in the neck when you are eating spaghetti," he quipped - but "the hard part is living up to Jesus' teachings - He is a very troubling individual." Dobson soon realized that living like Jesus was very different from what he, like most Christians, had imagined.

The examples of both of these men is far too daunting for me to emulate, I'd totally be setting myself up for failure - just as they did by making such a broad and far reaching resolution. So instead of such a grand focus or my usual list of twelve resolutions I have decided to focus on just one core biblical value, one teaching of Jesus - and that is Justice.

I therefore resolve that this will be for me "The Year of Just Living," and as of January 1, page one of my New Year, begins with the singular resolution to live justly in keeping with the biblical ideal and Jesus' teachings. At this point I don't know what that will mean or where the journey will take me, but I have an inkling that "just living" is going to be the challenge of a lifetime.

From time to time I will share my experiences. In the mean time I'd love to hear from you - What do you think that "Just Living" would look like in your corner of the world?

"Justice is treating people right.
That doesn't mean making everybody alike,
creating all equally, precisely divvying up the cheese,
creating cookie-cutter folk.
Justice is treating people right.
When I act justly, I treat people right,
give them respect, honour their needs, acknowledge concern,
but I'm not their saviour, their leader, their mother, their judge.
Justice is treating people right.
I can't deny their thoughts, needs, wants,
though I have no need to meet them. Maybe guide,
maybe support, but not interfering or manipulating.
Justice is treating people right.
I'm a people, with needs, ideas, goals, plans.
I must respect myself, welcome growth,
allow success though insecurities want to disagree.
Justice is treating people right.
I will respect people, honour them, aid in change,
sympathize, encourage, support them. Including me.
I'll treat all God's people right. " - Edward G. Dobson, "The Year of Living Like Jesus"

i- Cf. Philippians 3:13