one striving for God's reign to come to earth, bringing his peace, wholeness, completeness, and health to all aspects of life.

Lent: focus on Christ or ourselves?

So I didn't grow up with Lent.  My very Protestant churches probably did not even consider celebrating this season.  Despite that, I have come to appreciate it, albeit from a distance.  I have still never been very active at celebrating, though I think it clearly has value for focusing our thoughts on Christ and remembering his journey to the cross (and what it means for our lives).

That said, I have never understood the whole "giving something up" for Lent.  If the whole point of the season is to focus our thoughts on Christ, and ultimately to bow our hearts before the somber sacrifice Christ made on the cross, why do we spend the 40 days leading up Good Friday thinking about OURSELVES and what WE are going to give up??  It seems backwards.  Now I am sure there is value in such ascetic practices, and I am sure I need more of those practices in my life (times of silence, fasting, etc.).  But I feel like we have mixed up what this season is about: it's not about us and our issues, it's about Christ!

Certainly that has implications for our lives, but it seems like from the start we make the Lenten season a time of self-focus instead of Christ-focus.  What if instead of giving something up we spent time each day thinking about a different aspect of Christ's life and death in a structured and serious way?  I don't know--I'm really just throwing thoughts out there.  The basic point is that I think giving something up for lent has the potential to distract us from its point: our faith is not about us, but about Christ and who he is and what he did for us and for all humanity.

I like what Eugene Cho said on this (here), as he said, " I don’t want to think of it as a giving up but rather a season of more deeply ‘giving in’ or ‘giving to’…"  How can we give ourselves to Christ more deeply during this time--through obedience or conversation or study of his Word?  This gets closer to what I am saying, although it is still about us and what WE are giving to God.  Let's focus instead on what God is giving to us, what he has already given to us.  Let's make Christ the focus of Lent...


Anonymous February 18, 2010 at 11:29 PM  

I think the focus and complaints of your post is precisely where the season of Lent is directed. I believe that you are not merely giving something up but you are replacing it with something that will help direct your attention to the cross - similar to the practice of fasting. Ultimately, when fasting and you feel a hunger pang you pray, sing a praise or worship song, read scripture . . . to remove the physical discomfort and dependency and replace it with a spiritual dependency. I know tonight without tv I immersed myself in the study of the Good Samaritan out in the library. I give you the purpose of Lent from Wikipedia the ultimate theological authority.

Lent, in Christian tradition, is the period of the liturgical year leading up to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Conventionally, it is described as being forty days long, though different denominations calculate the forty days differently. The forty days represent the time that, according to the Bible, Jesus spent in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by Satan.[1]

This practice was virtually universal in Christendom until the Protestant Reformation.[2] Some Protestant churches do not observe Lent, but many, such as Lutherans, Methodists and Anglicans, do.


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