Should you observe Lent?


Recently the good folks over at HomeLife Magazine asked me to address the question of Lent. Should a Christian observe Lent or not? Below are my thoughts. What exactly is Lent? For some Christians, the word Lent is a reminder of the mystery of the faith. It's a strong, compelling call to abandon self and to run to Christ. To others, it can be a painful religious memory of forced ritual, and for some, the word does little more than sound strikingly similar to what's left over in the dryer after they've washed their towels. More specifically, though there are some variations regarding the observance of Lent, it can be simply defined as a period of time, lasting roughly six weeks, dedicated to the preparation of the believer for the celebration of Easter or Holy Week.

Typically, it can involve fasting, moderation, repentance, and the practice of the spiritual disciplines. Most churches that corporately embrace the observance of Lent do so because they share a commitment to keeping the liturgical calendar. Within evangelicalism, its practice isn't nearly as prevalent since most churches in the evangelical tradition have little familiarity with the liturgical calendar.

So, the question remains, should you and your family observe Lent?

Some Christians who have difficulty embracing Lent do so for one of two reasons. The first reason, and almost assuredly the most prevalent one, is ignorance about Lent. Predominantly, this encompasses those from an evangelical tradition, and if you find yourself in this tribe, you may find the observance of Lent to be curious. The second reason, though, would be an objection to Lent for theological reasons, and those in this camp often view Lent as a threat to orthodox Christianity. A variety of charges could be made against the practice of Lent, not the least of which is the charge that keeping Lent is a rejection of the cross. In the cross, our sins are covered, and grace is bestowed on us because of God's benevolence alone, not due to any activity on our part.

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