A resolution worth keeping

Published 11:41 pm Friday, December 28, 2012

The late Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop,” said “I’m starting with the man in the mirror.” Every time I hear that song, my mind and heart are back the late 1980s, when I was an uncompromising, idealistic kid. Everything was possible. The feeling in my heart is as fresh as yesterday as I recall joining with other students as we used hammers and crowbars to destroy a mockup of the Berlin Wall at the center of the school campus.

Back then it wasn’t difficult to be optimistic. I’ve sometimes wondered if it was just easier for me because I was young and not yet jaded by life or if the world really was a more optimistic place. Surely, it must be that I was different. The world has been a dubious place of joy and sorrow all along. How do I get back to that place of pure optimism about myself and the world? Is it even practical or prudent to try?

Apparently Jackson thought so, and I know I did back then. I still want to believe what he sang back then. “I’ve been a victim of a selfish kinda love. It’s time that I realize there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan; could it be really pretending that they’re not alone.” Are they alone? He went on to sing, “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

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Are you content with how the world is? I’m not. Not at all. While the King of Pop sang some profound lyrics that had a serious impact on my view of the world as a boy, as a man I’ve grown to study more complex thinkers; though the core messages are often similar — a desire to make the world a better place. In the early 1700s, the Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards created a series of resolutions by which he and many others since sought to live their lives.

In resolution 24 (of 70), Edwards writes “Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.” In other words, Jonathan Edwards, perhaps the most profound and important Christian philosopher and theologian ever produced in America, resolved to start with the man in the mirror as well.

This week, folks will be making resolutions, empty promises to self, all over the world. I’ve never found a gym parking lot more uncharacteristically packed than the first week of January and as empty as the first week of February. The trouble with gym-related resolutions and most others is that they appeal either to our inward vanity, our outward appearance, or things that have to do with other people. They are resolutions to change the world out there without confronting the world inside of ourselves. And that is why we fail to keep them.

Jonathan Edwards and Michael Jackson resolved to go first to themselves in order the change the world. Now that is a resolution worth keeping. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV)

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.