Let's face it -- for a lot of baptists, the idea of keeping Lent just sets the teeth on edge. For some, it just seems too...Catholic. Others object because they think it smacks of trying to earn salvation by good works. And then there are those that just think that whole focus on sin and death and self-denial is just a downer.
Let me be perfectly clear here. There is no scriptural command to keep Lent. No requirement to fast for 40 days before Easter. No directive to give up your favorite foods six long winterish weeks. Not one imperative related to anything called "Lent." The Season of Lent, and all the various customs and practices that come with it are completely and totally a human invention.
I just thought it would be healthy to get that out on the table. If Lent really bothers you, I give you total permission to just completely ignore it.
On the other hand, I think it might be worth remembering that the book is a human invention too. But most Baptists are pretty much set on having their scriptures printed on pages bound into a book. Not many are going around memorizing the whole Bible. Maybe that's because a book is a good idea. Maybe it is helpful to have things spelled out -- to put them where we can see them. In black and white.
Lent is kind of like that. It encourages us to spell out in black and white some of the hardest truths about ourselves that we would much rather forget. Like the fact that this life we live is limited in span and that we are all going to die. We can't seem to escape it. Moreover, death doesn't seem to be the only thing we can't escape. The world is full of things that suck us in and grab hold of us and won't let us go. Or that we grab hold of, and we just won't let go.
But when we actually try to let go -- to actually act it out in the black and white physical world -- It seems like addiction is not the exclusive territory of the substance abuser, and slavery is not the exclusive experience of the plantation worker. It begins to look like we are all walking dead, in bondage to our own desires, and slaves to all kinds of masters.
Lent is about admitting this truth. Admitting it, giving up, and letting God deal with it for us through Jesus Christ. The point of fasting isn't to fast -- it's to demonstrate that Jesus must do the work of freeing us, because we cannot. The point of self-denial isn't cleansing ourselves through suffering -- it's the realization of how bad we are at letting stuff go. It's forcing ourselves to look, really look, at the chains that bind us and seeing them for what they are.
And having seen them, then enjoying the Resurrection for the life-giving, chain-shattering, slavery-ending fact that it is. Food tastes better once you have worked up an appetite. Salvation is sweeter when you are clear about what you are being saved from. That's what Lent is for. It's a good idea that many Godly people have found helpful in their walk with Jesus. And there is no reason why Baptist should let the Catholics and Episcopalians have all the fun.
Don't worry, you can still do Lent like a Baptist. If you don't want to give up meat -- that's fine. Try giving up yelling at the drivers that displease you. Try giving up saying unkind things about other people. Try giving up lusting after...well, you get the idea. I think you'll find that challenging enough.
Then after seeing how that goes, if you don't want to confess to a priest, that's fine. Confess directly to God. But confessing is a perfectly good Baptist thing. Do it and do it hard and don't soft pedal it.
Do Lent with your eyes on the cross, singing hymns all the way, and praying like you mean it. You can't be much more Baptist than that I guess. Then when Resurrection Day rolls around, you might be surprised how much Lent means to you. Because when you get right down to it -- it really is all just about Jesus.
United Baptist Church
Check here regularly to find out what's happening around United Baptist, along with occasional gospel focused articles on important topics.