Thursday, March 06, 2014

Should We Repent of Lent?

"If we fulfill our personal law," writes Brian Lee, "we have confirmed ourselves in the conceit that we aren't so badly off after all." He discusses why traditions like Lent can often be detrimental to our faith:
The standard reply, of course, is that the penitence of Lent is not about scoring brownie points, but about meditating on the passion of Christ, and joining in his suffering. The ashes are applied in the shape of a cross to remind us of the cross, and the death we must each die to our sins and our bodily passions.

Two problems present themselves with this view. First, it underestimates our sin. Remember, Jesus listed pride and deceit as two of the things that bubble up from within our hearts. As sinners, we can’t help taking pride in the things we do to give our salvation a little push, so engaging in such self-prescribed spiritual disciplines just gives us more sin — the sin of pride — to repent of.

Second, and more fundamentally, is the uniqueness and purpose of Christ's sufferings. Jesus didn't die to purify his own soul, but ours. He fasted for forty days in the wilderness on our behalf, so we wouldn't have to; not as a model, but as a substitute. His passion was not a discipline that made his heart pure in its love for his Father, it was the price to be paid for our sins, and he paid it in full.

Christians are called to suffer as Christ suffered, that is, with the same purpose. We are called to suffer not for ourselves, but for others. When we engage in fasting in his image, but for the purpose of purifying ourselves, we invert that image. Such penitence is ultimately focused on self, not on the other.
Read the full post here.

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