It’s a new year and maybe you’ve made resolutions, or maybe just re-affirmed some you have made before. Many of us think about eating healthier and maintaining or starting an exercise regimen; some have financial or career goals. For the past decade I’ve been committed to walk in grace and forgiveness, which is the opposite of the bitterness I was trapped in for much of my adult life.

This past year I had also pledged to do better at what I call the “Funny Vs. Kind” Battle. This has been a struggle for me since I was a kid. I’ve often gotten in trouble because of my unruly mouth. I describe this as when I care about being funny more than I care about being kind (and pleasing Jesus), and I end up wounding or angering people. I always excused my unkind words by saying, “I’m just kidding! They shouldn’t be so sensitive.”

But Ephesians 4:32 tells us to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Nowhere in scripture does it tell us to try to be the center of attention, or be hilarious, or make everyone laugh. That all comes from my selfish desires. I want to be liked and to be popular. Or maybe I’m uncomfortable and don’t know what else to say! And sometimes I hurt people because I care more about being funny than about being kind. I care more about me than I care about others. That is sin. In fact, we are warned in Proverbs about teasing and fooling around:

Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” Proverbs 26:18-19 ESV

Just because we are kidding doesn’t make what we say or do okay. You don’t get a free pass because you “didn’t mean it.” And this is the lesson I need to keep learning. Proverbs also tells us the tongue has the power of life and death(Proverbs 18:21). Our words are powerful and should be formed with great thought and care!

Philippians 2:3-4 also exhorts us to place others’ concerns above our own and to live unselfishly.

Here we are, about a week into the new year and I’ve already blown it at least once in this area. I don’t think I caused any lasting damage, but I certainly chose funny over kind. And the people around me laughed, reinforcing my selfish desires. But I knew in my heart that I was wrong. I confessed to the Lord and to the person I had joked about.

And we must keep short accounts! I can’t let that feeling of failure and disappointment linger. I must repent quickly and then believe that I am forgiven and cleansed. There must not be an opportunity for the enemy to plague me with shame. And that’s a real possibility. After all, it’s easy to join in and berate myself: “Really? You still haven’t learned this lesson? What is the matter with you? Why can’t you just be nicer?

So I must remember what God says is true and that there is hope for me. Jesus isn’t finished working on me yet! He’s promised to complete the work He started me, as promised in Philippians 1:6. We must turn our minds to truth and hope.

Lamentations 3:22-24 says:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” (ESV)

Whether you have failed or succeeded so far this new year, let this be a reminder to you: there is always hope. He is always faithful even when we are not. He is our portion and His love for us never ends.

Happy New Year!

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