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I do something every December that begins with the best of intentions, only to see it disappear in a matter of days. Many people, like me, make New Year’s Resolutions. These are good for us: lose weight, exercise more, finish projects around the house, and read more books. Starting January 1st seems natural to us, as it is a new year and the turning of the calendar signifies a new start. But most of the time, we fail in our resolutions.  

But the thought of a new year seems different to me this time. It’s not just a new year. It really seems like a new start and, boy, do we need it—even if it is just a square on a calendar page. 2020 is a year that will be remembered for problems. COVID has made millions sick, and it has killed more than 300,000 Americans. Our country is divided not only in who we vote for but even in how the votes are counted. Lots of people hate the idea of wearing masks, and lots of people hate those people for hating masks.  

In other words, these are contentious days. But the truth is that fighting, bickering, and disagreement are a part of the human condition, and they will be until Christ returns to make all things new.

I am not satisfied with merely sitting back, accepting things as they are. Though seeking peace does not replace the gospel, it is an effect of the gospel.  

So, what is my resolution? My resolution for 2021 is to do all I can to hear what my theological, political, and philosophical “opponents” have to say. In light of all the “one another” passages in Scripture and commands like Colossians 4:5-6 (“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”), Christians must be at the front of the line in listening to others and growing from different perspectives.  

How do I hope to accomplish this? How can anyone accomplish this goal?  

Listen more 

I have a terrible habit of not really paying attention to what someone is saying. Instead, I am busy planning for what I’m going to say next. I’ve been like that my entire life (which is not an excuse to be rude), so I must constantly remind myself that I cannot listen with my mouth.   

Engage with “the other side” 

Don’t mistake this statement for an encouragement to abandon truth or deeply held convictions. Engaging with different viewpoints is what makes us grow as people. What I’ve found to be helpful, particularly in the 2020 election season, is to avoid news outlets that agree with my convictions and conclusions. Being part of an echo chamber is dangerous because it dehumanizes “opponents” and turns them into enemies who are out to destroy everything you hold dear. Doing this will also sharpen your own views and it should help you to grow as a person. In other words, seeing things from different perspectives may help change the way you view an issue. This may be scary but it is good! Changing your mind about a topic shows that you’re thinking deeply about an issue and you’ve been convinced by reason and facts.  

Always consider your mission 

Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is our mission – to proclaim the gospel so that Christ will be glorified through lives being saved from God’s wrath and transformed into new creations. We have no higher purpose or calling but how often have we (correction: I) forgotten this and instead focused on winning a political debate or proving how our (correction: my) theological positions are superior to others?   

My resolution for 2020 is simple: let my speech be gracious so that it will be Christ who shines through me.