The particular denomination I grew up in didn’t have a big focus on Lent; in fact, until a few weeks ago, I’d never given it much thought. The World Vision ACT:S group is launching an experience called Relentless Acts of Justice for this year’s season of Lent, which made me wonder…what, exactly, is Lent and should I be a part of it?
In terms of time, Lent traditionally begins on Ash Wednesday and occurs 46 days before Easter Sunday. But as Sundays are not included in the fasts, it is a span of 40 days. This is based on the time Jesus spent in the wilderness where He fasted, prayed, and was tempted.
Churches who participate in Lent usually focus on fasting, praying, and helping others. From what I have observed, these 40 days are a time to remember that we are humble before the throne of God (Ash Wednesday’s foundation is on the fact that we are made from dust and will one day return to dust). It’s a season of repentance and remembering the sacrifices of Christ. It is meant to be a time of simplicity, of making sure that your focus is where it’s supposed to be, and reaching out to others the way Jesus reached out to us…and all of this leads to Good Friday, when we remember the death of Jesus Christ, and the celebration of Easter.
Just as Advent ensures that we remember what the coming of Christ means to us in the midst of holiday chaos, I think that Lent ensures that we take a good look at the life of Christ and all He endured for our redemption. We all know how life pulls at us…our brains are usually juggling a billion and three things….and, for me, I know that I need times where I can pull back and readjust my focus onto God and off of myself.
Easter is a crucial day to a follower of Christ. His resurrection was victory over death, over sin, and over satan’s plan to forever separate humanity from God. Of course we want to celebrate the morning that the stone rolled away and Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, stepped out of the grave! But our victory through Christ came after He humbled Himself to walk on this earth and suffered on the cross…so, as much as we can, we should understand the cost of our salvation. Knowing the price paid, how much more will we rejoice in this gift to us of eternal life and communion with God?!
I’m pretty sure that my church hasn’t focused on this season for fear of doing things just for the sake of ritual. But with the right perspective, I believe that Lent can be a beautiful 40 days of pushing aside distractions, giving up things that hinder relationships with God and others, really meditating on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and living out His words.
And can Lent affect your life over the long-run? I think so. I hope that the time we spend with Christ changes us so that we better reflect Him in our daily lives…and so 40 days of conscious dedication to time with Him can only strengthen our faith and will to work for His kingdom. From my personal experience, I know that the more you know Him, the more you love Him. And that love will change your entire life, no doubt about it.
With all this said, I’ll tell you that I have signed up for Relentless Acts of Justice with the ACT:S network. Here’s their goal for the season(from the World Vision site):
“Lent is almost here! This year, we’re doing something a little different than your ordinary Bible study. We’re going to explore the Gospel narrative through the lens of six different injustices using stories and experiential activism.
ACT:S is all about action. We are a network of young activists fighting to change the brokenness in this world, writing our own modern-day Book of Acts. But to truly understand the brokenness brought by global poverty and injustice, we need to take a step back. We need to experience and understand the world – just as Christ took human form to experience the struggles of man.
Beginning March 9 (Ash Wednesday) and through Easter (April 24), we will try to emulate Christ’s incarnation through six real-life stories that we will bring to life by giving up everyday luxuries.”
Basically, they’ll send out emails throughout the 40 days to guide participants on a journey through Lent. If you’d like to get involved, click here to find out more and to sign up.
Whether or not you are actively involved in Lent, please take time to consider what Christ means to you…His sufferings, His grace, His compassion, and His love. In and out of season…every single day, we are called to daily take up our cross and follow Him. In the wilderness of our lives, He understands us and will help us every step of the way.