“Et tu, Brute?” Shakespeare put these words in the lips of Julius Caesar in his play about the assassination of Caesar. In the scene, Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger and his fellow conspirators stab Caesar in broad daylight. Caesar utters the famous phrase, meaning, “And you, Brutus?” in shock that the man he had trusted would literally stick a knife in him.
As we approach the New Year, we may not have to fear getting stabbed to death — or being in the precarious position of an emperor — but we do have to deal with surprising behavior from all quarters. From within, from without, and from even those we love, we have to reckon with disappointments.
New Year’s in the West has evolved into an odd mix of self-gratification and self-improvement. It’s a bit of the best (or worst) of humanism, as everything is centered on oneself, whether for the immediate pleasure of sex, drink, and food or the delayed gratification of financial, physical, or professional goals.
As Christians we know that depending on our own abilities is a surefire recipe for disappointment. Of the three enemies we face in this life — the world, the flesh, and the devil — fully one out of three resides in the person we see in the mirror. In Romans 7:7-25 even the tireless, ascetic, persecuted, martyred, Apostle Paul admitted that he fell short of his own ideals.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24)
The Christian life is one of striving towards the mark that God has set for us. From that standpoint, not only New Year’s but every day is an appropriate time to make ourselves better, for the glory of God, the benefit of our fellow man, and our better enjoyment of Him.
However, since even as sincere strivers we are fatally flawed and mortal beings, we each share Paul’s lament. What shall we do then? As we begin the New Year, let’s remember that Paul’s plea for help did not go unanswered by an empty, meaningless universe. No, God met Paul’s needs and He’ll meet ours as well.
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 7:25)
My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
The New Year is a good opportunity to focus again on God’s standards for us and His calling on our lives, to make adjustments so we can more consistently reach those aims. Even in their lostness, secularists are right to want to enjoy life and make the most of their time on this earth. Without God, though, they seek vanity even in their noble efforts. What good is a beach body when it only merits the praise of man and will perish in sin, death, and judgment? What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?
With God, however, nothing is impossible for us who seek not our own but others’ benefit and the glory of our Creator. Our flesh may disappoint us, but unlike Caesar we can avenge ourselves on the would-be assassins of our souls. Christ has power over the world, the flesh, and the devil. He is Lord of the past, present, and future. The New Year belongs to Him. Let’s parry the blows of the Brutus that is our flesh by obeying God’s Word and daily taking dominion over 2017.
Happy New Year!