Sunday, March 1, 2020

A Vent About Lent

Whenever visiting the Washington, DC area, I usually stay with a friend who’s a retired government worker. Shortly after meeting Jim at Calvary Campground nearly thirteen years ago, he invited me to live at his home in Northern Virginia for a season. During that time, I got to lead him in receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Since then, we’ve gone to various church services and revival meetings together.

Jim is still a member of an Anglican Church that’s more traditional than I prefer. Nevertheless, I’ve gone to a few of their bible studies and other gatherings. This past Tuesday, we went to an all-you-can-eat pancake dinner. On our way there, I noticed a sign in front of a Methodist church doing the same thing. Soon I learned this is a tradition with some denominations the day before Ash Wednesday, which signifies the start of Lent.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines Lent as “the period preceding Easter that in the Christian Church is devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ's fasting in the wilderness.” The Lutheran church I attended as a child posted announcements in their bulletins such as “1st Sunday in Lent.” However, I don’t recall my family ever observing Ash Wednesday or Lent.

I know Christians who observe the original Jewish feasts. One can argue there is Biblical precedent for that. However, I don’t see anything like that for Lent. There are no commandments for the New Testament church to fast and pray over a specific period. Romans 14:5 says, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.”

Observing Lent can be a good thing if it helps a believer draw closer to the Lord without becoming a religious duty. One practice associated with it that I find degrading is someone marking their forehead with ashes on Ash Wednesday as a sign of penance. This promotes sin consciousness. Jesus already took the punishment we deserve. Christians need to have the mindset that once they repent, they can confidently walk as children of God.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” - 1 John 1:9

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