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As someone who grew up Catholic but who “crossed the Tiber north” in middle school (to Presbyterian land), I’ve experienced at least a few different perspectives on whether or not Christians should participate in the season of Lent.

The argument I often heard amongst (some) Protestants was that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was a “once and for all time victory over sin and death.”

To therefore enter a season that seemingly exalts our sinfulness, our mortality, would be to ignore the fundamental reality of God’s salvific work in Christ.

To therefore enter a season that seemingly exalts our sinfulness, our mortality, would be to ignore the fundamental reality of God’s salvific work in Christ.

Stu Headshot

For me to delve into this argument is probably way above my pay-grade, but there is a second argument I also often heard, one that I think misses a part of the human experience. And that’s what I’d like to share some musings on today.

The second argument I would often hear was that the idea of “giving something up” for Lent was also inconsistent with the central premise of the Christian faith: that we are a new creation, where the “old has gone and the new has come.” (2 Cor.5:17)  To focus on our lack would also seem to negate the saving power of Christ.

The problem with this critique, is that it seems to miss a central lived experience: which is, that we are constantly finding things, consciously and unconsciously, to bind ourselves to, whether it be ice cream or instagram, alcohol or avarice, we often unknowingly use and abuse various things in this world to help us cope with the pain of life.

Lent therefore is a sober reminder of what John Calvin once said, “The human heart is a factory of idols. Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” (For those history buffs out there, yes, I know I just defended a season that Calvin himself vociferously argued against, but I can’t help but wonder if Calvin was alive today, if he might see things differently.)

The truth is, it is only when something is removed from us that we can truly gain an appreciation for how such a thing has impacted our lives. So my question to you is, what in your life do you need to take a break from?

What started as a simple hobby or way to relax, but has since come to take more and more of your attention, turning into something else? How about I start, so that I actually take my own medicine. My wife and I decided to give up use of our smartphones one day a week (other than the actual phone) and I have also removed an app from my phone (which shows website data), which I had begun to check fairly obsessively in the last few years.

The western worldview says, “the more the better.” But a Christian worldview recognizes that we too easily become entangled with the things of this world, even good ones. For that reason, taking a break from something we like or enjoy can actually be paradoxically enough, freeing.

Stu

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