Some thoughts on New Year’s resolutions

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist

Last Sunday morning one of our elders asked our church folks, “How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions?” The giggles telegraphed the answer, six whole days into the new year. I’m guessing that the three or so people who didn’t laugh and might have still been on their diets, budgets, etc., have also blown them by now, about 10 days into the new year.

Personally, I’m batting 1,000! A decade or two ago, I resolved never to make New Year’s resolutions. When I’m mildly tempted to make one, I get over it by reminding myself that the only resolution I’ve ever come close to keeping is the resolution not to make resolutions.

Preachers can’t see a test pattern on TV without drawing some lofty lesson from it. But this whole resolution thing is full of theological/philosophical ramifications. The question behind all of this is no less than, “How are we saved?” And “saved” in every sense.

As I recall, C. S. Lewis once said, “No one really knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good.” If you’ve not figured that out by experience, you’ll bless us all by making many resolutions.

It takes some truly serious effort at “law-keeping” before we can realize how weak and needy we are, and we lose a load of arrogance and are driven to humbly accept God’s grace as more than theoretical.

You’d think that just trying to keep the Ten Commandments would be enough to drive us to grace. But we deflect the lesson by majoring on outward ritual and skin deep pseudo-sanctification that feeds our pride.

You’d think that reading St. Paul’s testimony in Romans 7 would be enough to drive us to sheer mercy and grace as it did him: “What I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.”

Jesus warned that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom. Hmm. How many — fill in the blank — rich, successful, thin, non-smoking, … folks do you know who don’t deep down think that everyone could be like them if they just tried harder? Keep going until you find your own area of arrogance staring at you from the blank.

I think Jesus might say to us, “It’s more likely that pigs will fly than for wealthy, skinny, successful guys or gals with killer abs to learn a little compassion and genuine humility.” Salvation, perfection, of any sort, will never come because we work so hard, so well, and finally “get it right.”

Want to drop a few pounds? Cut back or away at a vice or two? Good! Just remember that even in the pigpen, the prodigal son knew his father better than the self-righteous son who supposedly never left home.

If you shed some pounds, great. Just remember that the folks who truly love you love you even when there’s more to love. (And guys, be merciful. Your gal will work harder to shed 10 than you’ll work to shed 30.) If for you or me the choice is to be a humble fat person or an arrogant thin twit, keep the pounds. On those rare occasions when we find it for a moment or two, humility is worth its weight in gold. We all look better carrying some of it.