I’ve never been one to set resolutions at the start of a new year.
I am not against resolutions. In truth, resolutions serve a significant purpose in my life. A resolution is a decision or a determination to act. My bible is filled with exhortations to be resolute in heart, in spirit, in word, and in action. And perhaps that is why I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. As I read the word of God each morning, I am encouraged to make resolutions every day.
The book of James is chock-full of resolutions. In fact, the purpose of the book of James is to encourage its readers how to live and breathe a life centered upon Jesus Christ.
Need an example? Check out these two verses:
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone, should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. New International Version, James 1: 19-20
Be quick to listen.
Be slow to speak.
Be slow to become angry.
Embrace the truth that self-motivated anger does not embody a Christ-centered life.
I don’t know about you, but to demonstrate any or all of these actions requires humility and self-control on my part. I must resolve to listen first and speak last. When I hear or see something that offends, irritates, or stirs up resentment in my heart, I must check my motives – and fast! Because if this anger, irritation, and annoyance is left unchecked in my heart, it gives birth to an even deeper bitterness or rooted set of resentments.
Orge is the Greek-transliterated word for anger. Orge is defined as the movement, agitation, impulse, desire or violent anger of the soul. Orge occurs when our heart is stirred up in indignation, resentment, and/or violence against another. And the problem with this kind of anger is that at its root, this anger is self-righteous and duplicitous. It’s an ugly kind of anger. Turn the letters of orge around just a bit and you have the word ogre – not a hideous fairy tale monster or a type-cast, irritable Shrek, but some one who is frightening, dreaded and difficult to deal with in life – especially when angered.
And that’s the problem, isn’t it?
We have too many people claiming to be Christ-followers who are coming across as ogres – including me — every single day.
I am an ogre when I allow myself to get bent out of shape when I am certain I am right and some else is wrong.
I am an ogre when I become resentful when some one slights or fails to appreciate my efforts.
I am ogre when I fail to listen and to understand some one else’s point of view.
I am an ogre when my black and white, judgmental thinking fails to see the beauty and worth in some one else.
I am an ogre when I am impatient and vexed with my children.
And when I am an ogre, when the orge in me simmers, then seethes, then gurgles and spurts, and then boils over, these passions and unbridled impulses cover and hide any indication of a Christ-prioritized life. I am not shining the light of Christ as my God desires, but rather I am covered in resentment, indignation, impatience, annoyance, and infuriating muck.
Is this what I want others to see?
Is this what I want others to view as my witness?
Is this what I want others to value and emulate one day?
Of course not. Absolutely, categorically not!
And yet, what do people outside of my faith see in me – day in and day out?
Do they see me as quick to listen to them?
Do they see me as slow to speak about my views and opinions?
Do they see me as self-controlled, kind-hearted, gentle, and loving?
What do they witness as I drive the roadways of Johannesburg in traffic patterns that defy reason?
What do they witness when some one is less than accommodating of my family or me?
What do they witness when they hear me speak about some one who has wronged me?
What do they witness when they see my oven break down again and again and again?
What do they witness when they see some one take advantage of me?
To answer these questions, honestly and forthrightly, takes more than a set of New Year’s resolutions.
To be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger requires moment-by-moment resolution.
And right now, as I view this world and all that is happening here, it’s critical I make this moment-by-moment resolution every day. Because if I don’t get this deal right, others who are outside my faith, will judge me as just another one of those hypocritical, angry, annoying, and dreaded Christians who refuse to listen and won’t keep quiet long enough to understand the point of view of some one else. I will be an ogre in their eyes and fail to live the Christ-honoring life my God desires of me.
So, no, I will not make a New Year’s resolution to be a better listener or to be slow to speak or to be slow to anger.
I will make these resolutions in the moments of my day when they count the most – when my family, my friends, my acquaintances, and those I consider to be strangers are watching and listening. Such moment-by-moment resolutions are almost impossible to achieve without the guidance and help of my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
I will fail. Of course I will. But I am determined to try again.
I will ask forgiveness and give it my best shot the next time.
Because listening isn’t easy for me – just ask my husband, when he is telling me something and I am half-listening.
Being slow to speak is challenging. I have things to say!
Choosing to follow Christ instead of being resentful or irritated or put-out by others; requires humility. I can be pretty selfish at times.
But I am determined to try. I don’t want to live my life as an ogre. I want to live the righteous life that my God desires for me. I want others to know and love Christ as I do.
This is why I live and I breathe these words:
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. New International Version, Colossians 2:2-3
It all begins with listening, understanding, and loving…and that’s my resolution for today, tomorrow, and every day of 2015! I resolve not to be an ogre!
Photo retrieved from Shrek the Ogre