The other side of looking at last year is from the bad side, and it is from this aspect that we are moved to make our New Year’s resolutions and propose to do better. We have often been told that we cannot be better men on our own, that is, we can’t lift ourselves by our own bootstraps. In one of Bernard Shaw’s plays, a character is explaining the birth of his soul. One character says, “Ought all passions not to be moral?” and is answered that nothing can control a passion, but a stronger passion. Therefore, unless our moral passion is stronger than all others, it will be powerless to control them. Our moral passion takes a mob of appetites and organizes them into an army of purposes and principles.
From this position, the Christian can look into the New Year and propose to do better. He proposes to do better because his mob of appetities of last year has been organized into his army of principles. But how does he organize this moral passion?
Paul organized his passion through surrender, surrender to a gracious invitation to share a richer and fuller life. To most of us, this organization means the surrender of ourselves in order to gain freedom. We call our country the country of the free, and we are proud of our heritage. Yet, we are but slaves to many things: habit, wealth, passions. We can become free by surrender to a passion that overcomes those passions that are our shackles. Jesus says, “Whosoever would save his life shall lose it,” and adds, “What is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses his own self?” Conversely, then, we can gain ourself by losing the world, that is, by losing the shackles that bind us to the world. When we are no longer bound to the world and worldy things then we are free.
A man said to another, “This is a rotten world. I could make it better myself.” His friend said, “Then let’s do it.” That’s the Christian approach to the New Year’s resolution. Let us get the urge to be better, to do better and to make the world better. The Christian has a guidebook, a book that points the way, a book that divides men into two classes: those committed and those not committed. Jesus demands unqualified commitment and offers unqualified freedom in return.