Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Thoughts on Lent
I used to naively think that only Catholics observed Lent. It wasn't something I even heard of much or knew much about growing up. Then I started getting around more Christians outside of the religious circles I had grown up in, and found out there are a lot of others besides Catholics that observe it. In fact, a lot of Methodists observe it, and I am a branch of the Methodist church.
If you know me very well, you probably know I am not afraid to express views contrary to the status quo, even of that status quo is my own church. So, it may come as no surprise that I view Lent differently than a lot of people. I seriously can't see me ever observing it, and really have no problem with anyone who does observe it. So why won't I observe it? I am so glad you asked:
1) The day before Lent officially begins is Fat Tuesday. It is a day of partying, decadence, and some pretty raunchy stuff especially if you're in some parts of the country. If someone is so intent on this giving something up for God, why wait until the last minute? Why party and hit hard whatever you're giving up the next day?
2) The majority of people who observe Lent just go back to the thing when the forty days are up that they gave up. Many people count down the days til they can have chocolate again, coffee, sex, beer......or whatever is on the endless list of things people give up. Why go back to it so fast? Why not give it up for longer? Why count down?
3) I'm just not a guy to jump on a bandwagon and do something that others are doing.... or when they are doing it. If I was going to do something like Lent, it would be at a time when it isn't the popular thing to do.
And #4 is probably the biggest reason I can't see me observing Lent:
4) This idea of denying ourselves something for 40 days runs contrary to what Jesus preached. He preached that if anyone wants to follow Him, we must deny ourselves, and take up our cross...... not just for 40 days, but for the rest of our lives.
The church has so closely melded with the world, that there is hardly any difference in the two. Too many Christians have the attitude that they will do what they want, and demand a verse if you dare suggest a Christian shouldn't do something..... and if it is in black and white in the Bible; many Christians then just reason around it.
Biblical truths like seeking God's will in all, honoring God in everything, denying ourselves, being in but not of the world...... those have been pushed aside in this new American Christianity so many have embraced. We are under grace, not law. There is no need to do anything differently when one becomes a Christian.
But how does that line up with a cross and denying ourselves?
Undoubtedly, most of us could stand to cut back on some things for a while and make extra time for God; but a 40 day giving up something isn't going to impress God if we are not denying ourselves every day of the year, 24/7.
What does this denial look like? It is not doing something even if it kills you, if you know it is displeasing to God.
It is remaining celibate even though you're human and have sexual urges, because you are attracted to the wrong gender and God says "no."
It is refraining from alcoholic beverages because you feel it is better for you as a Christian to not do it, and will please God.
It is spending time in prayer and reading the Bible. Setting aside unnecessary work and activities on the day God set aside to worship Him and rest.
It is being alone, but doing God's will; instead of being with a crowd who doesn't serve and honor God.
It is not doing everything the world does. It is being careful what we view and listen to.
It is seeking God's will and trying to honor Him in all we do, say, and think. It is wanting what He wants more than what we want.
Every day of the year, not just for 40 days.
What if everyone observing Lent examined their hearts and asked God what He wanted them to give up for Him all of the time, not just for 40 days? What if everyone who claims to be a Christian took up their cross, denied themselves, and had Lent all year long?
Sound crazy? Not really. That is what Jesus said, only He didn't use the word "lent", just deny.
So go ahead and observe Lent if you do, but don't forget it is Jesus' command to deny ourselves daily; not just for 40 days.
**Disclaimer: I know some people take it more seriously than others, and this is not a blanket criticism of all Lent observers.