TO LENT OR NOT TO LENT?

  • AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy, Theology

    5 Comments

    Today is Fat Tuesday, the day where you and I can get so much sin out of our lives that we can rightly prepare for Ash Wednesday and 40 days of preparation for Easter.  While not getting into the questions surrounding why an individual should go overboard before a time of repentance, Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday was originally begun to get in the last bit of rich food and celebration before the more somber time of fasting arrives on Ash Wednesday.

    It seems like a lot of Protestant churches are now taking part in Ash Wednesday and remembering the Church Calendar period of Lent.  Why, when I was a kid, Lent was just for Roman Catholics, not for Protestants of different stripes.  But after my time in Church History classes in my undergrad education at Vanguard University and my time at Fuller Seminary, I have come to the conclusion that it is a helpful practice for the Church.  There will be people who take part in the time with little thought, that will always happen, but the focus on sin, repentance, and the cross will make the victorious resurrection and vindication of Jesus that much sweeter on Easter.

    I do recommend Christians (evangelical, or otherwise) to take part in this ancient practice.  I have written in support of this here and also gave a history of it here.

    If you feel called to give up something for 40 days, then that is great.  But please, don’t go flaunting it around everywhere like a martyr.  Fasting from something is meant to be between the individual and God, not a regular Facebook post about the desire to eat chocolate or drink coffee again.  As Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18,

    “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

    Whether you do or do not begin the fast in the Lenten season, I hope you would at least commit to remembering God’s mercy through his action in Jesus.  As I have said in a previous post years ago, “we should participate in Lent not out of superstition or thoughtless ritual.  Lent ought to be a time of contemplative thought upon Christ and His salvific mercy.”  While Christmas reminds us that God came to us, Lent and the Good Friday will remind us that God brought us back into the fold by bearing our sin.

    And boy, am I thankful for that!

  • Josh Augustine

    Great points here, especially the underlined bit and reminder to keep it secret. Jenna always fasts something during Lent, but I never have before. Maybe I will this year.

    What do you think about “fasting” something that you wanted to give up anyways for general health reasons? A lot of times, my first inclination is to give up sugar or something like that, but then I realize that I’ve been wanting to do that anyways, and am maybe just using the fast as an excuse.

    • It’s a great practice, I hope you (prayerfully) consider it.

      Good question, Josh. I can neither confirm nor deny that I have performed that type of fast… Fasting is about taming the cravings, moving the person into more reliance on God. If you are addicted to sugar, I don’t necessarily see the harm in giving it up. Something that is helpful to me is if I ever fast, I make sure to pray during those times of temptation. When somebody brings in a pizza for lunch (God knows how painful that is!), I pray harder. Hebrews tells us that Jesus is a High Priest that can sympathize with our weaknesses, and I just hope he knows how painful it is to give up a slice of Costco pizza. 😉

      • Josh Augustine

        Haha, especially Costco pizza! That one slice is the size of like 4 regular slices 🙂

        I did the same thing with a fast my church did recently. I gave up sugar and everytime I thought about eating some, I would look around and pray for the first person I saw.

        I think I’m going to cut back on my video game time for Lent, and use that time to pray with Jenna and read the Bible/C.S. Lewis more. I can’t give them up entirely because of my job, but I can cut down the amount of time I put into them while home for sure.

        Thanks for the encouragement!

  • InciteFaith

    SO glad you wrote this. Can’t even begin to express how many times I’ve heard fasting is between the person and God — not the world. The point of fasting is to grow in our relationship and intimacy with the Lord. Can’t be either if the world is involved. Thank you for this post! Keep writing!!!