2015 was a CRAZY year, full of goodness and brokenness, hashtags and hope.
At times it has felt like we are all adrift on one of those tiny inflatable refugee boats - fleeing turmoil on every side and heading towards who-knows-what.
We are buffetted by the waves of hatred and insularity, bad hair, war-mongering, racism and violence.
Ridiculous politicians and media blowhards have given voice to our basest instincts, riding the waves of our insecurities, instead of calming the storm.
And yet, in the midst of the turbulent winds, there have been times of peace and joy too. There have been moments where we have turned towards our neighbors and simply said, "Welcome." or, "I'm sorry."
So, as a new year dawns, imagine the sea is calm for a moment. The sun rises on a new day with brilliant red and orange. The slate is clean. Gather your thoughts and be encouraged by this Scripture:
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I believe 2016 will be a year of more trials and challenges. No doubt, wars and strife will continue to rage. And our leaders will continue to disappoint.
Still, you and I are called to persevere. To grow in our faith and wisdom. We are called to follow the path of Jesus, who points us towards the upside-down Kingdom.
We are called to practise small acts of justice and mercy and faithfulness (Micah 6:8).
So, with that in mind, here are 10 New Year Resolutions to live more justly in the coming year:
1. Commit to learning more deeply about 1 LOCAL justice issue in 2016. No-one can engage with every issue or need that arises, but don't let that be an an excuse to bury your head in the sand (or in a year-long Netflix binge). Prayerfully choose ONE THING that affects your local community or nation like #blacklivesmatter or #lovemakesaway and learn all you can this year from those engaged in the struggle. Become an ally to those who are fighting for justice.
2. Ride public transport at least once a week this year. This simple act will take you out of your comfort zone (literally out of your car) and into contact with folks you might not normally rub shoulders with. As a result, you'll be more likely to meet people on the margins and more likely to see things from a different perspective - not to mention brownie points for being nice to the environment.
3. Invite someone outside your family and usual circle of friends to an annual celebration. Considering Jesus clearly asked us to do this in Luke 14, it's surprising that partying with the poor is not more central to our lives. So, add this zinger to your 2016 bucket list and start with 1 person: "When you throw a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you WILL be blessed." (Lk 14:13-14)
4. Get your hands DIRTY. Most of the world's population - our poor and marginalized brothers and sisters (my neighbours here in this slum) - are engaged day in and day out in manual labour. They produce the food and products that you and I consume. As an act of solidarity with them, consider a rhythm of life that includes some physical work. It could be something simple like growing some of your own vegetables or even making some of your own furniture.
5. Have a cup of coffee with someone from another religion this year. With all the hatred being directed towards people of other faiths in 2015, let's make a concerted effort to be different, counter-cultural - more Christ-like. Ask God to lead you to someone you can learn from, from another culture and religion - then have a nice hot beverage and a chat with them for starters.
6. Commit to learning about 1 GLOBAL justice issue in 2016. Some of us engage more easily in those things that are on our own doorstep, and so the challenge is to broaden our sights beyond CNN or Fox News and recognize our brothers and sisters who struggle overseas. In 2016, choose ONE INTERNATIONAL ISSUE to keep up to date on and pray regularly for that situation.
7. For the next 12 months, get most of your clothes at a Thrift Store. Our shopping habits are out of control and this year is the perfect year to get things back in order. You don't need more stuff in your wardrobe. So, do the world a favour and take Macklemore's advice - head over to the Thrift Store next time you need a new outfit.
8. Read and be inspired by one of the Prophets. Take your pick - Amos, Ezekiel, Isaiah - any of those grizzly old street preachers will be a worthy challenge - and spend some time immersed in the words of the Prophets of Old. Read the whole book, start to finish. Allow the scriptures to speak to the situations of injustice that you care about, and underline any passages that speak of justice, or poverty or mercy. Reflect on these in the light of Jesus and His upside-down Kingdom.
9. Make room for 1 more child this year. God's concern for vulnerable children (usually framed as "orphans") is legendary. In fact, Jesus went so far as to say, you welcome HIM whenever you welcome a child in his name. So, could you make room in your life for one more child this year? This is the challenge we give to young people in the slums of Asia and Africa - to become Alongsiders - to walk alongside those who walk alone. It could be as simple as a spontaneous game of football down at the park, volunteering as a Big Brother, or as costly as opening up your home as a foster family.
10. Embrace the Sabbath 52 times this year. Yep, take Sundays (or Saturdays or whatever) off to rest, unplug from technology, worship and enjoy God's creation. You might wonder what this has to do with justice, but God created this world to move in rhythms of work and rest. Our relentless pursuit of activity, entertainment and productivity is destroying the earth and our own well-being. Isaiah 58 clearly connects Sabbath-keeping with justice. So this year - make rest a priority - everyone will benefit.
And just for fun, here is one more CRAZY bonus idea for 2016...
11. Spend a few weeks in an urban slum. This might seem impossible or too radical, but in my experience there are few things so deeply impactful as being immersed in a place of poverty. I know my life has been changed forever. If you want to be shaken to the core, and have your heart broken for the poor, then seriously consider this opportunity.
Hopefully, this list sparks a few ideas for you. Create your own bucket list of justice for 2016 and share your ideas and suggestions in the comments below so others can get inspired.
If you'd like to get a monthly update of new posts on this blog during 2016, as well as news about my next book (Subversive Jesus - coming in April!) - subscribe here. Happy New Year!