Should You Observe Lent?
By Joel Greenwood
Yesterday, a day known as Ash Wednesday in the Catholic tradition, began the 46-day period leading up to Easter. This time is known as Lent. Many Christians observe this time with an attitude of solemnity and fasting in various ways, but is it a time that is commanded for us to observe? If not, is it wrong for us to go ahead and observe it anyway?
Lent was started by the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., and the ways in which it is observed have changed in the centuries since. Its purpose is to prepare believers for Easter by denying themselves and repenting, and is most often observed through fasting, confession, almsgiving, and prayer. The Bible never once mentions Lent, but is it possible for it to be a beneficial time for us to observe? Let’s look at some of the good and bad aspects of it:
1. Repentance is good, and we should continually practice it.
Acts 3:19 tells us that repentance brings refreshing times from the Lord. We should continually live repentant lives of turning from sin to God.
2. Our faith grows through prayer, fasting, generosity, and confession.
Praying, fasting from food, giving to God, and confessing our sins are all practices Christians should regularly practice, being found all through the Bible.
3. Intentional remembrance of Jesus is important.
Every Sunday, we follow the words of Jesus in Luke 22:19-20 to remember him through the Lord’s Supper. We grow in our relationship with Christ when we spend time outside of our gatherings remembering him, too.
1. We can be tempted to think that works bring us closer to God.
Paul teaches the Ephesian church that only the grace of God saves us. If we’re not careful, we may fast, give, and celebrate Lent just so others will see us, or so that we might feel better about ourselves, which does not bring us closer to God.
2. Placing an emphasis on doing these things during Lent is bad if it’s the only time we do them.
In Luke 9:23-24, Jesus reminds his disciples that following him is a daily walk; if we only place an emphasis on it for 40 days each year, we’re greatly missing out on a life lived in Christ.
3. It can cause us to ritualize our relationship with God.
In Galatians, Paul reminds the Church that we are free in Christ to no longer follow the old rituals and laws. If we treat Lent as a ritual that we must follow, we can minimize the impact Christ had when he died and rose again.
So, should we celebrate Lent? Maybe, or maybe not. If you do, it’s completely your choice, but according to the Bible, we should live each day in wholehearted devotion to God! And because of Christ, we don’t have to approach this season with somber hearts, but with a celebratory spirit, because we know that our Savior lives!