By James Pence
It seems there is some controversy in religious circles about the observance of the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter known as “Lent.”
Naysayers say we have no command to practice such in the Scriptures and that it is a man-made invention, largely created by the Roman Catholic Church. They also point to the possibility that in praying and fasting and emphasis on increased good works, it seems like a works righteousness action that is being taught, which discounts the actions of our Lord to save us.
Instead of relying on his grace, we seem to be sending the message we are relying on our works to save us instead.
Of all the people, I have known that practice the Lenten observances, this idea does not represent what they are doing at all. It is an act of ultimate humility that does not exalt self but emphasizes the humility and the compassion of our Lord.
Christians who practice it do not go around boasting of what they are doing, what they are giving up for Lent, or how often they are praying. They are quietly readying themselves for the Resurrection observance of Jesus, which we celebrate on Easter.
It is also good to remember that the Scriptures are replete with examples of God’s people winning many victories after a 40-day, fasting-and-praying event.
After 40 days, David defeated Goliath. In 40 days Noah and his righteous family were shut up in the ark, as a wicked world was cleansed by a flood. There are 40 days from the Ascension of Jesus to the beginning of the church in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, and Jesus was tempted of the devil for 40 days in the wilderness as he fasted and prayed. Just to name a few examples.
So while we do not have a command in Scripture for Lent, we do have the command of Jesus to “fast and pray” for periods of time in order to seek and more readily understand the will of God.
Having said all of that, I don’t see how it can hurt to have a time of extended inspection to prepare for the glorious resurrection of our Lord, one of the two high tides of the Christian calendar.
Certain groups of churches in our area would have us to believe that other denominations and Christians are sinful for advocating this practice, but I doubt the same groups would want to do away with Christmas even though we all know Dec. 25 is not the correct date for the birth of Jesus.
They would likewise not advocate that we stone our children for disobedience or cut off a man’s genitals for having sex outside of marriage, all of which are sanctioned in the Mosaic law. Likewise they would surely not insist that men never touch a dead pigsskin when they play football simply because Leviticus demands it.
Likely they would also argue we aren’t bound by the law any longer since we are New Testament Christians and follow the practices of those holy words.
And yet the Bible assures us: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16. You can’t have certain Scriptures you argue to negate other Scriptures, but the Bible must be taken as the entire revealed will of God.
Lent comes from the Middle English word “Lenten,” meaning “springtime.” It refers to the lengthening of the days and looks forward to Resurrection Sunday. In a season of repentance, prayer and fasting, why would anyone insist we not strive to draw closer to our Lord and Savior.
In our brotherhood of churches we have slogans that bind us to other brotherhoods and allow us the freedom to associate with other believers in Christ. “We are not the only Christians, just Christian’s only. “
When we apply the test of asking what would Jesus do situations in life, I believe he would say, “Just do it.”
May we all seek ways to draw closer to the Lord and may we be blessed as we observe the sacrifices and the worship services afforded to us in this Lenten season.
James Pence is minister of Pleasant Grove Christian Church of Martinsville.