Colossians 3:12-17 could have been written for New Year, it contains a string of instructions that might prepare us for a new start on New Year’s Day. What will 2019 hold for us? Fortunately we can’t know. Nostradamus predicts that 2019 will be a year of Justice. Well, I am hoping not. I have escaped justice so far and hope to pass through another year without facing it.
Occasionally, I get a contact from the past, someone whom I knew at school, someone from early days of work, and I cringe, worrying what embarrassing or hurtful incident they remember about me. I think of all the people in the world who produce my food, make my clothing, mine the minerals for my phone, and process the oil that runs my car, but who don’t enjoy my standard of living. I think of all the species that have become extinct because I keep buying palm oil products in supermarkets. No, I don’t look forward to justice.
Paul urges us to “Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline… to forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you… to wear love… your basic, all-purpose garment…Oh, and cultivate thankfulness”. So, let’s do all that. But what about the bigger picture?
Paul could not be expected to see that. As an itinerant preacher he must have been amongst the poorest of people; inequalities did not bother him, he even accepted slavery as a commonplace. As an inhabitant of a pre-industrial society, he could not be expected to anticipate how we have wrecked the planet and eliminated species that he could never have known to exist. His exhortations were all about interpersonal behavior. If he were preaching now, what would he be saying?
We can’t believe that God’s revelation to humankind finished with the death of St Paul.
I don’t think that St Paul’s message was a big hit with the powers that were then. If he were preaching today, I don’t expect that either religious or political leaders would welcome him with open arms. So, we must expect that when we try to find God’s guidance for us now, we will not be popular for it. I noted that when Sir David Attenborough, National Treasure and surely more expert on the environment that anyone reading (or writing) this blog, spoke to the UN Climate Summit, he was greeted with only half-hearted applause. Prophets are not popular; ask any prophet who met a violent end.
What does 2019 hold for our species, and for all the other species that quake in fear as our growing prosperity squeezes them into more and more hostile environments? We need more, even, than St Paul’s demanding expectations of us. We need to apply our God-given intelligence to our purchasing and voting habits; we need to review our quest for comfort against the cost to the Planet. If this does not sound like a religious or Christian reflection, I am sure that neither Jesus nor Paul received a rapturous reception with the religious establishment either.
How will you change in 2019? How will I?