Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why I Don't Observe Lent

In the past, I have always thought of Lent as a Catholic tradition, but in recent years I have noticed that an increasing number of Protestant churches and individuals have been observing the season. As a result, I decided to read a little more about both the tradition and why non-Catholics are deciding to observe it. Before I note the reasons for my decision not to observe Lent, I should note that I consider this a matter of Christian liberty, and I would not criticize others for making the opposite decision, though I might, for reasons described below, be curious about their reasons.

Indeed, I found in my reading that a number of Christians have decided to do some sort of Lenten observance for reasons that I find somewhat compelling. They consider the season to be an opportunity for preparation for the most significant dates on the Christian calendar: Good Friday and Easter. Having a period of time for prayer and/or fasting in order to focus the mind on the coming celebration on the death and resurrection of Christ seems highly appropriate and even spiritually invigorating. While that is not the route I have taken, I could commend others for doing so.

Nonetheless, I have found that many other Christians say that their Lenten observance consists of "sacrifice" in order to bring them "closer to God." While that might seem a laudable goal, it is biblically problematic. Our closeness to God is not a matter of our sacrifice, but of Christ's sacrifice of Himself in our behalf. Put another way, we cannot by self-sacrifice lift ourselves up closer to God. Rather, our closeness to God is accomplished by His determination to condescend to where we are. Our closeness to God is not a matter of our attainment, but it is a matter of His grace.

For those of us who have learned to cast off the chains of legalism in favor of the gospel of free grace, 40 days of the former is too much of a falling away from grace. Indeed, it is for the cause of emphasizing the joys of a grace that is free and that is the only way to receive God's favor that I have chosen to leave aside any Lenten observance.