New Year’s Resolutions pale into insignificance for followers of Jesus, compared with New Age Resolutions. According to the apostle Paul in his letter 1 Corinthians, the seismic change in history – the place where true change occurred – was not a cyclical event at the start of a calendar year, but a one-off event at Passover some time in the early 30s AD.
And for Paul, that event triggered not simply a new year, but a new age. And not only a new age, but one in which not simply a new leaf was turned over in the book of history, but a new book itself was begun. He contrasts “this age” of the flesh with the “new age” of the Spirit. There is no correlation between the two, other than that they run parallel until Jesus returns.
Because of his understanding of this new age, Paul’s life was turned around. And he made this stunning new age resolution wherever he went:
“I resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1Corinthians 2:2).
A Jewish religious leader, for whom powerful signs of God were the proof of God at work, resolved that the weakness of a crucified man was power enough for him. A man of great verbal skill and intellectual dexterity resolved that the foolishness of proclaiming Jesus as the Christ was wise enough for him.
And how does he want this New Age Resolution to work itself out in the crazy Corinthian church?
1. The New Age makes power, impressiveness and worldly intellect obsolete. Therefore resolve to no longer be enamoured with these things among God’s people.
2. The New Age exposes the folly of divisions among God’s people. Therefore resolve in the Spirit to put aside division this year, not simply because it’s unhelpful, but because it shows that we are merely following the pattern of fallen humanity (1Cor3:4)
3. The New Age exposes the seriousness of sexual immorality (1Cor5). Paul says that since our Passover lamb has been sacrificed the old “leaven” (behaviours etc), are finished with. Christian communities in 2015 should resolve to ignore the cat-calls of culture, and the well-meaning though misguided Christian claims, that a traditional Christian sexual ethic is on “the wrong side of history”. To the contrary, all those who reject God and his Christ are on the wrong side of history, namely the old age that is passing away. So resolve to be sexually pure in thought, deed and attitude this year, and to stand bravely in the face of all who would say otherwise.
4. The New Age exposes as ludicrous legal squabbling among Christians, therefore resolve that you would rather be wronged (1Cor6:7), than take out a legal matter against a fellow Christian. “But I might lose everything/face/money!” Yep, you might, – in THIS age! But not in the NEW age, where you will “inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Cor6:9). If that is too insignificant a reality on your radar, then resolve in 2015 to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth.
5. Resolve to love. Surely 1Cor 13 is the prima facie proof that a new age has begun. In a world of greed, hurt, hatred, selfishness (with bright flares of human love popping up as testimony to the image of God in us), Paul says that true love – and only “true” love – has a permanent home in the New Age. The other things? They are with us in the “in-between times”. You don’t know who you will be called to love this year; you don’t know how difficult it will be to continue to love someone you assume you would always love way back when 2014 life seemed normal; you don’t know who you will be tempted to hate in 2015 (though you might have some idea); you don’t know how much New Age love you yourself will need this year if you do something unloving to a loved one.
A new year gets old. It gets tatty. It gets flabby. A new year starts out running on the beach, but by August is sitting on the couch eating chips and watching re-runs. But a New Age? A New Age just keeps getting newer. It starts off as a mustard seed and blossoms into a great tree. It starts off as a grain of wheat put into the ground that dies before springing up to abundant life. It is sown perishable and raised imperishable. At the very point in the race that it should be growing weary, it mounts up on wings like eagles and breasts the tape to huge cheers.