As the current year comes to a close and the so-called new year dawns, many people see the transition as an opportunity to make changes in their life.

Many of us have probably boasted grand “New Year’s resolutions” in some form or another and went on to experience different degrees of failure or success. For myself, I’m about 0-58 in New Year’s resolution victories.

But the idea is so compelling – to do something new, to start again, to make things better than they were in the past year.

Nope. I will not be drawn in again. No New Year’s resolutions for me. If I find the will to go to the gym more often, that will be fine and dandy. If I cut back on caffeine and increase my intake of broccoli, then all of that will be well and good. But I am not going to make promises to myself that I end up not keeping.

On the other hand, there are some things I find myself hoping for in the new year. Not resolutions, just hopes.

For instance, I hope for a decrease in the polarization that has come to exist in our political discourse. I have a friend who teaches history who told me recently that he thinks our country is as divided now as it was just prior to the Civil War.

If true, that is not a good thing. I would hope we could find leaders who understand the principle of the “common good,” and not just represent their own narrow constituency.

I also hope that leaders in the faith community would commit themselves to promoting unity and cooperation among all people of good will. We don’t all have to pray the same way to build a house for a needy family or collect food for the hungry. We don’t have to read the same holy text to extend helping hands to those in need.

Religion can be a powerful force for good or a powerful force for ill. We’ve had way too much of the latter and I would hope we could do better.

I also hope in the coming year we finally decide to do something about the unnecessary wars we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was a point not long after 9/11 when the conflict in Afghanistan had a certain logic, but that moment has long since passed. And there was never a legitimate cause for invading Iraq.

If Thomas Jefferson was right, and we should tremble because God is just, then all of us have reason to dread God’s judgment on our involvement in Iraq.

I hope in the new year there will be revival of a sense of unified national purpose. I long for the kind of civic pride that led to landing an astronaut on the moon. I long for the kind of dedication to the human predicament that helped us to virtually eliminate polio and small pox. Working together, using the best of our faith and our minds, there are great things the human community can accomplish.

We could end poverty, hunger and disease in the undeveloped countries of our world. We could facilitate the construction of schools and hospitals in places where the most desperate of our human neighbors are in need. We could, to use the language of Jesus, be salt and light to a world in need of both.

We don’t lack the resources, only the will. And I find myself hoping that we will finally decide to do our part to fulfill the prayer that Jesus taught us: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.

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