January owes its name to the Roman god Janus—a god with two faces, one facing forward and the other backward. As one year ends and another begins, looking back and forward is a good exercise for anyone traveling through life. Christians are no exceptions.
As Christians we have two advantages in our glances back and forward. First, our thinking is guided by our God who knows the past, present, and future better than we ever can. He knows how the count of our hair strands fluctuates from one year to another, yet he is not some celestial accountant or case manager tracking such detail about us all. He knows the flight of the sparrows and considers us much more important. He has redeemed us to be free of the changes of time along with its trials and heartaches. All our times—past, present, and future—are in his loving hands, and it will all work out for our good as we enter his presence forever.
That’s in the future yet, but we have one more advantage here in time. Sadly, we are tormented by our sinful inclinations. That’s no advantage. The advantage is that we have a desire to live in forgiveness, freedom, and hope because we are believers. We can look back and cringe at our past failures, but we, forgiven by our loving God, can turn away from them and then stand ready by his love and forgiveness to improve in the future.
That advantage is repentance—a turning away from our sinful tendencies and a turning toward future improvement. It should be a daily activity for us as Luther reminds us: “The old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance.”
The darkness surrounds us—violence, cruelty, prejudice, corruption, immorality, greed. The list is long. We carry the seeds of racism, discord, jealousy, and all the evil within. That old sinful nature finds attitudes and influences around us that fuel that nature to abandon or set aside what God expects of us as his children. We are flawed and imperfect. Yes, we are cleansed by the blood of Christ, but we still retain the sinful nature. All too often we have lost the battle to be lights in the darkness.
We have seen and heard name-calling, bullying, threats, and destructive confrontations. Looking back at our own behavior and attitudes, what might we discover? Was love and compassion for others absent or at least hidden? We are to speak the truth without compromise, yet speak in love, looking for an opportunity to convince and win others for Christ rather than build animosity. We all find reasons to repent.
And it’s not just how we respond to those who think different but also to those who look different from us. Did we fail to see them as people with families, lives, and careers? Did we remember they are plagued, like us, with sin and are in need of forgiveness and hope in Christ? Look back! Think how often we have looked past Black, Hispanic, Asian, and others who look different and failed to love them or show kindness and compassion for them. Have we built walls instead of bridges? Repent. Turn away from those attitudes, embrace forgiveness in Christ, and be ready with love and consideration for others. Tomorrow is a new day to be his lights in this world’s darkness.
Author: John Braun
Volume 109, Number 01
Issue: January 2022