New Life in the New Year
The adjective καινός, “new,” is, as you would expect, a New Testament theme-word:
They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority!” (Mark 1:27; cf. Acts 17:19)
New wine must be put into fresh wineskins. (Luke 5:38)
A new covenant (Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25)
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
…be renewed [ἀνανεοῦσθαι] in the spirit of your minds, and clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:23-24)
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Cor. 5:17; cf. Gal. 6:15)
Behold, I make all things new. (Rev. 21:5)
These lines were spoken into a world rife with fatalism, depicted most memorably in the Sophocles play Oedipus Rex, but also present in various forms of Greco-Roman philosophy and religion. We’re stuck, in other words, and the most we can hope for is to be content with our lot. As we have seen, that is decidedly not the message of the Gospel!
As we move further into 2022, let us claim for ourselves individually and collectively the new reality made possible by God. It is instructive to see how intentionally Paul connects this new life in the Spirit with quality relationships and community. On the one hand, things that undermine fellowship dominate his catalog of “works of the flesh:” “enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, [and] envy” (Gal. 5:20-21). “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (5:22-23a).
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore…let us strip off every weight that slows us down” (Heb. 12:1). To one extent or another, each of us carries burdens and attitudes from the past that slow us–and with us, our community—down. But we are not fated to live in, much less to repeat, the past. Rather, we can, should we choose, be empowered to create new possibility in the present. That is, by the way, a most Wesleyan way of thinking. God desires to work in us now, not simply on some far-off day.
We live in a challenging time, a season that amplifies anxieties and fears, uncertainties and entrenchments. The faithful and productive response is to lay hold energetically of the promise of new life in the Spirit.
Please join me in praying for the Spirit to create new reality and new possibility in 2022, to empower us to set aside whatever holds us back, and to equip us to live ever closer to the standard of the new creation in Christ.
Grace and peace,