Does anyone else love the new year? I love a fresh start. I’m going to wake up early, go for walks, eat more vegetables, pack my kids’ school lunches every evening… Are you laughing yet at my misguided optimism?
In the country where I serve, the new year is a big deal, but not for the reason you might think. Yes, some people make resolutions and set goals. It’s the Southern hemisphere, so a new school year is starting and it makes sense to reevaluate schedules and priorities. But there’s one thing everyone does to mark the new year: greeting people.
This confused me at first. Someone would greet me with “Blessings on the new year!” and I would look blankly at them because it was already halfway through January. But that’s the way here. No matter when it is, if it’s the first time you have seen someone in the new year, you mark it in your greeting.
This practice is now one I love, because it challenges my perspective. When I’m most preoccupied with self-improvement, my neighbors are focused on one another. Coming from an individualistic culture and serving in a community-oriented culture, I have a lot to learn.
Even more, I am challenged by Paul’s instruction: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:1-2,12). Not with good habits, health, or home organization. Those things are fine, but they are not eternal; people are.
If I’m honest, self-improvement easily becomes self-absorption. Being organized is a fine line from being controlling. I focus on what I do instead of who I am with and how I am relating to them.
Regardless of the different types of ministry we do around the world, we all have one thing in common: neighbors. And our neighbors are eternal souls, loved and valued by God. Let’s “set our minds” on this most important, eternal calling: to love as we have been loved.
Is there someone you know whose attention to others inspires you? How would you like to be more like this person?