When you think of New Year’s Eve, the famous ball drop in New York’s Times Square probably comes first to mind. However, other towns are doing things their own way tonight as well.
Las Cruces, New Mexico, will drop an oversized illuminated chili pepper. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, will drop a 200-pound custom-made piece of bologna. Georgia will drop a giant peach, of course, while Idaho will understandably drop a large potato and Panama City, Florida, will drop an 800-pound illuminated beach ball.
However, despite such festivities, the Associated Press reports that the pandemic is scrambling holiday plans across the country as “Americans fume.” And for good reason.
Four hours in an airplane bathroom
A year ago, we hoped this pandemic would be behind us by now. Instead, the US shattered its record for new daily coronavirus cases this week. Experts warn that an omicron “blizzard” will disrupt our country further next month with a surge Dr. Fauci predicts will not peak until the end of January.
We are already seeing a hospitalization surge among US children and restaurant closings. A teacher who learned mid-flight that she had COVID-19 quarantined in the airplane’s bathroom for four hours to protect the other passengers.
The pandemic is not the only crisis we hoped would be better this year. The US nationally saw its highest-ever increase in homicides in 2020, but a dozen cities have now set new records this year. A father in Columbus, Ohio, mistook his sixteen-year-old daughter for an intruder and fatally shot her. A three-year-old in North Carolina accidentally shot herself on Christmas and died Tuesday.
Is this the “new normal”? As we end 2021 and look to 2022, will anything change? Will the pandemic become permanent? Will inflation stay with us? Will violence escalate? Will the midterm elections deepen our partisan divides? Will our culture continue its slide into dogmatic secularism and unbiblical immorality? A New York Times guest essay titled “Is the West Becoming Pagan Again?” answers largely in the affirmative.
How could an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God allow such a state of affairs? What does he intend to do to change things? The answer to both questions might surprise and transform you.
A drop of honey in the sea?
Many Christians, consciously or not, think of Jesus’ humanity as tempered by his divinity in such a way that he was not as fully human as we are. We know that he grew hungry, thirsty, and tired, but we view his humanity through the lens of his divinity to the reduction of the former and the elevation of the latter.
This is the ancient heresy known as Eutychianism, whose founder said Jesus’ humanity was obliterated by his divine nature “like a drop of honey in the sea.” According to St. Hippolytus of Rome (170–235), this is a profound misreading of Jesus’ humanity and of its significance for your life and mine.
In his astounding intellectual achievement, The Refutation of All Heresies, Hippolytus said of Jesus, “This Man we know to have been made out of the same clay as our humanity. Otherwise, he could not teach us to imitate himself. If he was of a different substance from us, surely he would not have ordered us to do what he did, since we are born weak. How could this be the act of one who is good and just?”
To the contrary, “To show that he was no different from us, he even underwent toil, was willing to endure hunger, did not refuse to feel thirst, and sank into the peacefulness of sleep. He did not protest against his death but became obedient to it and manifested his resurrection. In all these ways, he offered up his own manhood as the first fruits of our race so that, when we are in tribulation, we may not lose heart. Rather, confessing ourselves to be a man of like nature with our Redeemer, we may live in expectation of receiving what the Father granted to his Son” (10.29, Ante-Nicene Fathers 5:152, my paraphrase).
“Be holy in all your conduct”
Here’s my point: our Father intends to make us like his Son (Romans 8:29) and then to use us to change our world.
Since Jesus was as fully human as we are, he can make us like himself. In fact, he died for this purpose: “In order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:22). This is why he told us, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). It is why Peter taught us, “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15).
Being like Jesus is not an unattainable goal to which we should nonetheless strive in the new year—it is God’s intention for every one of us. The same Holy Spirit who empowered Jesus (Luke 4:18; Matthew 12:28; Acts 10:38) now dwells in you and in me (1 Corinthians 3:16). Theologian Gerald Hawthorne wrote: “The Holy Spirit was the divine power by which Jesus overcame his human limitations, rose above his human weakness, and won out over his human mortality.” Now the Spirit intends to do the same in your life and mine.
Our part is to “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (Colossians 1:23). It is to yield every day to the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and live in his leading and power through the day. Then, as we work, he works. As we strive for holiness (Hebrews 12:14), he will make us holy. As we “behold the glory of the Lord,” we are “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
“The dominant figure of Western culture”
To be negative: If more Christians were more like Christ, would our culture be the way it is? To be positive: If more Christians were more like Christ, could our culture stay the way it is?
In this new year, let us settle for nothing less than all Jesus won for us when he died for us and rose for us so we could be “born again” as the children of God. Let us be empowered by divine omnipotence, led by divine omniscience, and impassioned by divine omnibenevolence.
H. G. Wells called Jesus “the most dominant figure in all history.” Newsweek editor Kenneth Woodward agreed: “By any secular standard, Jesus is the dominant figure of Western culture.” Daniel Webster attested, “All that is best in the civilization of today is the fruit of Christ’s appearance among men.”
Now imagine the impact if two billion Christians (“little Christs”) walked our planet. Imagine the difference if we refused to be anything less than the literal “body of Christ” in the world today (1 Corinthians 12:27).
If you were more like Jesus next year than you were this year, what would need to change today?
NOTE: Time is running out to reach the $2 million year-end goal. So please give now in these final hours of 2021 to help equip more culture-changing Christians to stand firm in 2022. Your tax-deductible gift will help ensure Denison Forum remains a strong beacon of truth in the year ahead. So please don’t wait — give your gift before midnight tonight.