For the first time ever I rang in the new year sitting in bed reading a book. I didn't turn on the TV to watch the ball drop, see fireworks, or even make any phone calls to tell anyone Happy New Year the minute the clock stuck twelve. In fact, I don't even think I realized it the moment it happened. And guess what...it didn't bother me one bit!
As a teenager, I took pride in refusing to do everything society dictated proper and appropriate. This was different. It was not an act of pride, but an act of freedom. I think it took me too long to begin learning this lesson, but I'm starting to experience the joy in NOT needing to do everything "by the book." We have rules, regulations, and customs for all kinds of things, and for the things that matter, I certainly believe in observing them. But for those that don't, I am learning I have the freedom to respectfully live differently, even if it seems strange or unorthodox by others' standards.
I'm not advocating an "if it feels good, do it" kind of attitude. But something deeper that is not based on feeling, as much as it is freedom. I've often thought of the concept of "freedom in Christ" (Gal. 5:1) as what I GET from being a Christian (eternal life, a relationship with God, communion with other believers, etc), but this alone is a shallow view of freedom. The context of Gal. 5 talks about being free FROM sin. I've always connected this with obvious things I know Christians are not supposed to do.
That's part of it. But being free from sin is more than just being moral and not doing the stuff that sinners do. In fact, when you put it that way, it doesn't sound very freeing at all. You probably do not think of going to a party out of obligation, staying up later than you really want to out of custom, or even forcing yourself to choke down black-eyed peas because your grannie says their good luck as "sin." BUT, things like this CAN be done out of a sinful spirit that is helplessly resigned to the ways of our world, instead of living in the freedom one can have in Christ.
If doing things like that are fun to you, then no, it's not a sin. I also realize that we sometimes have to do things we do not want to do in the name of service and humility. More than changing a specific action this next year, I hope to narrow the broad range of things (customs, advertisements, impulses, feelings, other people, etc) that sometimes dictate my behavior down to Christ and Christ alone. It will only be then that I will be living out of genuine freedom, regardless of whether or not my actions are considered "by the book" by society at large.
How about you? What are your hopes for this new year?
*Did you catch the irony in the title?