Yesterday’s newspaper came with a supplement headed “how to look younger after 50: a man’s guide to defying age”. Today’s supplement is headed “how not to look naff at the gym in 2016”.
You can tell it’s a new year by the abundance of pressure to become a supposedly better, idealised version of yourself. Look younger – heaven forbid that you’d look your age… and heaven forbid that you’d look naff while doing your exercises at the gym… Not only are you pressurised to look younger (why? what is wrong with getting old?) but you are also pressurised to look good while torturing yourself at the gym.
It’s interesting the way we worship health, youth and fitness, beating ourselves and each other up over “sins” such as: letting yourself go, eating too much junk food, being overweight – but at the same time if I dare to mention the Christian concept of sin, I’ll get told not to be judgemental. If I tell you that in the eyes of God we are all sinners in need of salvation… If I talk about what sort of stuff God regards as sin…
Not that being fit and healthy isn’t a good thing – don’t get me wrong. It’s just a lot less important than having a right relationship with God. Looking after your body is good, as long as you keep things in perspective. The body you’re living in right now? It’s just your temporary residence. You’ve got eternity to face after you leave this body, and eternity is a lot longer than this life.
But I’m not here to do a Christian imitation of those pressurising newspaper headlines. The gospel of Christ is not about how to become a better you (though you will gradually become a better you if you let Jesus in) – it’s about how to have a right relationship with God despite your sinfulness.
It’s not “here’s a list of things you have to do”. It’s not “seven steps to heaven”. It’s God saying: I know what you’re like, and out of love for you I sent my only begotten son to suffer the terrible punishment you deserve, so that you can get forgiveness of all your sins through faith in him.
A new year can’t make you really new.