Lent begins in two days, a period each year in which Christians are encouraged to take seriously the need to intentionally step away from being self-centered.
I grew up in a tradition that was dismissive of Lent. “Show me a verse that commands us to give up chocolate for Lent,” someone would say. And all those in the know would snicker, since there are none, of course.
The church mothers and fathers that bequeathed us Lent thought in different categories. They knew Scripture to be God’s revelation in Christ, not a list of rules detailing the minutia of life. Proof-texting would be appropriate, I suppose, if the Bible was given as a software manual, but it is not, so proof-texting must be seen for what it is: a misuse of God’s word. Our spiritual ancestors also knew that repentance is not a once-for-all experience, and that if we didn’t intentionally focus on it periodically we probably would fail to increasingly mature into lives characterized by repentance. Judging by my own experience, they were correct. I could give lots of reasons, but they all boil down to pride.
“Probably at no point,” John Stott writes in Issues Facing Christians Today, “does the Christian mind clash more violently with the secular mind than in its insistence on humility and its implacable hostility to pride” [p 37]. That’s not what would have come to mind if I were asked where the Christian mind differed most violently from a secular worldview, but I think Stott may be correct. “It would be hard to improve,” Stott adds in Life in Christ, “on Luther’s description of fallen man as homo in se incurvatus, ‘man curved in on himself.’ Human fallenness is human selfishness” [p 86].
The more I write this blog the less comfortable I am about this topic. Which is precisely the reason I need to take Lent seriously this year.