I’m not one who usually partakes in forecasting New Year’s resolutions. That is not to say that I don’t set goals or aspire to specific targets, but for whatever reason my previous attempts at New Year’s resolutions have resulted in failure. I have always been someone who prefers to reflect. I find my route forward by reflecting on what has transpired, the events that have taken place, the people I have met and the ridiculous things I have said. Likewise it is significant to recognise and reflect on the events and circumstances that shape our world, and that create the context in which we abide.
When I take into account the big picture of our world, when I reflect on the events that have shaped 2015, I feel a mixture of sentiments. On one hand, our world is an incredibly broken and fragile place; Tunisia, Paris, Kenya, Ankara and Charleston were all places tainted by atrocity, pain and violence. In April, two sizable earthquakes struck Nepal, killing nearly 9,000 people and leaving many homeless. The Middle East conflicts forced millions of refugees to flood into Europe in search of a hospitable welcome and in many places were greeted by hostility and razor wire fences.
Alternatively, 2015 also highlighted the great potential, creativity and hope of humanity. Paris hosted the biggest international conversation on climate change, Myanmar held its first freely contested election since 1990, Germany opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the Syrian Crisis, and Nigeria elected a new President, as did Argentina and Venezuela.
Ultimately though, I don’t see a world that is fashioned by values that are honourable, just or compassionate. I see a world dominated by a narrative of competition, greed, economic centrality and autonomy. Despite this, my allegiance to God means I hope for a new reality, a kingdom reality, a reality, which welcomes the stranger, is peaceful rather than violent and joyful rather than agonising.
When we read Jesus’ words in Luke chapters 4 or 6 or in Matthew 25, we read of an incarnate God painting a picture of a new reality, teaching values emphasising love, peace, sacrifice and equality. Values that are quite contradictory to the message and mandates of 21st Century society –
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. (Luke 6)
Jesus challenged the prevailing narrative of his day in tangible, practical and simple ways that placed him at odds with the paradigms of power, privilege and authority. He spoke of a kingdom that welcomes the forgotten and the overlooked, those who are victims of systemic injustice.
When I think of my hopes for 2016, I want to avoid making goals I can tick of with ease, which affirm my own sense of accomplishment or which only better my own circumstances. As a Christian, I have a responsibility to ask some bigger questions – how does the way I live challenge the prevailing narratives of my day? How do I adopt rhythms that welcome the stranger, love my enemy and do good to those who might seek to hurt me?
In 2016, I am hoping for many things. For increased awareness and hospitality towards refugees, concrete action to minimise carbon emissions and reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and greater love and respect for those with different opinions and ideologies. For a just and needed increase in Australian Aid, for the church to embrace a unified and collaborative missional approach to local and global issues and for more and more people to believe in the Good News – that the Kingdom of God will come on earth as it is in heaven. However, rather than leave my hopes for 2016 there, where I will ultimately disengage with them because they are lofty dreams and conceptual thoughts, I need to challenge myself to live in a way that influences the realities of this world, even if the actions I can take are small and seemingly insignificant.
I hope that as you begin 2016 you will have a chance to reflect on the realities of our world, dream about your hopes for the coming year and challenge yourself to adopt new postures which contest the prevailing narratives of our world and usher in a new type of reality.
Tim Johnson (TJ) is TEAR’s Victoria/Tasmania Church Engagement Coordinator. TJ, together with his wife Cath, baby son Theodore and their friends, live life and love people as part of a missional community on the Mornington Peninsula. TJ has also worked in pastoral ministry for the last six years and has spent the last couple of years collaboratively pioneering a network of youth ministries centred on engaging with kids in their local community. TJ and Cath feel a strong sense of call to serve God's Kingdom both locally and abroad, and are excited about having a dialogue with the local church around a shared commitment to this call.
This post originally appeared on TEAR Australia's blog www.fortomorrow.org.au