Thursday, March 13, 2014

To Deny or Not Deny?

The Lenten season has begun. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for six weeks, or forty days. The purpose of Lent is for Christians to prepare their hearts for Easter through times of prayer, repentance, fasting and self-denial. 

Lent is usually observed by Roman Catholics, Methodists, Lutheran, Reformed and Anglican churches, although some Evangelical churches now observe Lent. 

I am a former Roman-Catholic turned Methodist turned Evangelical. I used to observe Lent but I no longer do. For the past 20+ years, I have remained ash-free on Ash Wednesday, and supposedly guilt-free. I no longer feel I have to refrain from a certain behavior or habit for forty days. I eat meat on Fridays. I have told myself that I no longer come under the "laws of the church."

On the other hand, am I missing something by denying my flesh of something? I've told myself that I can do that any time; that it doesn't have to be during Lent. But I don't. But I could if I wanted to...without anyone telling me I have to...but I don't.

I know someone who gives up chocolate every Lent. She's not even religious. I suppose she feels it's a good thing to do (she gets up at midnight on Easter Sunday and has a chocolate bar!). So, you don't have to be Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran or even slightly religious to observe Lent.

I know others who give up things for Lent because of their religious upbringing, but don't go anywhere near a church during the rest of the year. They "have" a religion, but don't go to church or live their faith. And some of those people label me a fanatic. But they relinquish something dear to them just the same. I have been guilty of passing judgement on those individuals. Am I any less of a hypocrite than they are by passing judgement?

I read that Lent lasts forty days in commemoration of the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by the devil. It makes sense then, to deny ourselves of something during that forty days. Every time we want that thing, we will be tempted. We, like Jesus need to call on the name of God to deliver us from that temptation. 

There is something powerful about self-denial. There is nothing wrong with "giving something up for Lent," even if you are not religious. It's the why that's important. Many people do so because they've been conditioned. Still, many others deny and deprive themselves because they want to identify with Jesus. Self-denial and self-discipline draw us closer to our Lord. It is not my job to determine someone else's why, just as it is not someone else's job to determine my "why-not."

Whether we observe Lent or not; whether we "give up something" or not, we are all brothers and sisters of the faith. We all serve the same God. We all believe in the same Jesus. I must repent of passing judgment on those who observe Lent. I commend you. You are stronger than I am. As is often my theme...let's not complicate things. We are all walking toward the common goal-Holy Week, Easter, the celebration of the miracle of our Risen Lord and King. Hallelujah!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary



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