Resolutions, Judo, and Grace (361)

I’ve never been much on New Year’s resolutions because I’ve had a familiar pattern with them: I make one. I stick with it for a couple of weeks. I begin to make excuses for why I can’t keep it. A few more weeks go by and I then realize I’ve ignored it, mostly. Then the guilt of my failure seeps into my soul. So, I end up worse off than when I started. I haven’t made the change I desired plus I’ve burdened myself with the fact that yet again I’ve failed at keeping a resolution I made. To quote blessed Paul in Romans 7:24: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” The answer, of course, is God’s grace imputed to us through the cross of Jesus. So now, I don’t make resolutions any more, not only because they make matters worse for me, but because they’re counter to inhabiting God’s grace. Resolutions rely on my own capacity to muster enough grit to keep them. I don’t have such capacity and I never will.

What complicates this for all of us is that we often live by God’s grace as if it’s a hobby we choose rather than a worldview we inhabit. I don’t mean to trivialize hobbies in writing that because hobbies are serious business to those who engage in them. Just ask a dedicated “hobbiest” about their hobby and an hour later you’ll have heard as much as you can take. But it’s still a hobby and it doesn’t require the “hobbiest” to inhabit a different worldview. Many of us profess a similar seriousness about God, just as long as God doesn’t require we change our worldview in order to inhabit his grace in our lives. If we don’t inhabit a grace-centered worldview, then our faith becomes similar to being a member of the Optimists Club. If we don’t like what the club is all about, we can always find another hobby that strikes our fancy.

Well into middle-age, I practiced Judo. I still benefit from its wisdom. In Japanese, “Judo” means “the gentle way.” At its core, Judo is practiced, not by brute force, pushing against one’s opponent, but by allowing the opponent’s own force to throw him. Our desire for resolution-inspired change is like pushing against an opponent, hoping we’ll prevail by overpowering what we want to change. From my experience, that rarely works. Inhabiting God’s grace is much like practicing Judo. We can’t do it by will power alone. We have to trust grace as a way of life. Like with blessed Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel: We have to “let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Inhabiting God’s grace as a worldview isn’t like having a serious hobby. It’s more like practicing Judo. Because of God’s grace, when we disagree with another person, we don’t need to push back until the other admits we’re right. As we inhabit grace, we’ll care less about another person’s “tribal” affiliation. We’ll simply care about the person. The more we inhabit God’s grace as a worldview, the less worried we’ll be about the earth’s fate. That’s not to say we’ll be naive. Just because we live trusting God’s grace doesn’t mean we must deny reality. After all, God has never been in denial about the world as it truly is. The cross of Jesus is God’s statement that God has accepted the world on humanity’s terms. And the resurrection of Jesus is God’s declaration that the world’s terms, as they are, are unacceptable to God. In the cross and resurrection, God has exercised God’s own form of Judo, using the force of our sin to bring us new life.



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