News Year resolutions are popular as a way of committing to changing something about us, whether it’s our weight, our look, our social media, charity, etc. . . However, this is not a new trend by any means. Roman soldiers had their own distinct ritual that can teach us something about looking forward and not behind.
Janus was a god worshiped in ancient Rome. The name Janus means doorway, passageway, or archway. Ceremonial arches were erected in honor of Janus throughout the Roman Empire. When their armies went to war, they would march in a choreographed precession through a Janus-inspired archway. This expression of superstitious confidence in Janus, who was considered the god of beginnings, was a means of looking forward to the future. The month of January is named after Janus, who was depicted as a man with two faces. One face looked back, bearing traces of sorrow, dismay, and perplexity; the other looked forward, personifying hope and confidence. The symbol of Janus taught that there are two ways to live. We can either live in the misery of yesterday’s failure, or live in the hope of a new beginning. The idea displayed through this ritual was one of hope for success within war.
In our culture today, we have a similar ritual. Every year, myriads of people make New Year’s resolutions, wanting to forget what was behind and hope for success within the new year. We find ourselves looking back at the previous year, at all of the goals we wish we accomplished, at all of the failures we loathe, and resolve to have a better and more successful new year. Yet, through these resolutions, we tend to focus on the things personified through Janus: wealth, success, and health. However, the Christic event of the cross provides us with a unique view on this love of new beginnings.
In Christ, we as Christians have our own unique means of new beginning. While our new years resolutions tend to focus on ourselves, our desires, and our wants, Christ calls us to model him within our new beginning of moving from a life separated from Him to one in true relationship with Him.
Every day there is the opportunity to look forward through the salvific event and not look behind towards a life of sin and death.
While the Janus’ archways focused on the wants of individual who would walk through it, the new beginning of salvation through Christ focuses on picking up our own crosses and dying to ourselves daily. In Matthew 16:24 we find Jesus saying to his disciples: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” We have a hope of a new beginning, the beginning of living our lives for Christ and living it for others.
This hope is found in Jesus, not Janus. During this time of year, many of us are wanting to start over. We want to have a better beginning. But the the only way to have that beginning, that fresh start, is through Jesus Christ. Paul told the Corinthian church about this process, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
God is not looking for the perfect but He is looking for those who will look for Him.
Through Jesus’s obedience to live, die, and rise again, we have the opportunity of a new beginning. This new beginning is one that we must work at every day, one that calls us to be like Christ. Our new beginning calls us to turn from our personal desires and wants, and calls us to live out a life that Christ calls us, one of loving God and loving others (and not just caring about what we want).