Because life is a series of edits

Something to Think About for Lent

In Church, Theologians on February 21, 2007 at 12:12 pm

Lent is upon us, and, rather than spend the rest of my day (and this post) trying to figure out what one thing I should give up for the next 40 days, I thought I’d focus a bit on why to consider giving up anything at all.

John Calvin taught that original sin “seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God’s wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls ‘works of the flesh’ (Galatians 5:19).” What he was saying was, if depravity is in us at all, it is all in us throughout:

“The mind of man has been so completely estranged from God’s righteousness that it conceives, desires, and undertakes, only that which is impious, perverted, foul, impure, and infamous. The heart is so steeped in the poison of sin, that it can breathe out nothing but a loathsome stench.”

But just as the depravity of original sin is all in us, “If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it (salvation) is ‘of him’ (1 Cor. 1:30):

  • gifts of the Spirit in his anointing
  • strength in his dominion
  • purity in his conception
  • gentleness in his birth
  • empathy in his humanity
  • redemption in his passion
  • acquittal in his condemnation
  • remission of curse in his cross
  • satisfaction in his sacrifice
  • purification in his blood
  • reconciliation in his descent
  • mortification of the flesh in his tomb
  • newness of life and immortality in his resurrection
  • inheritance of the kingdom in his entrance into heaven
  • protection, security, and supply in his kingdom
  • and peace in his judgment

“In short,” wrote Calvin,” since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain and from no other…” Calvin’s solution to our sin and depravity was not merely a physical restraining of sin (though there is need and grace for that), but a spiritual transfusion through blood and faith – that is, Christ’s for ours.

In other words (and to apply Calvin’s thought to the meaning of today), giving something up for Lent can be good, but giving in to Christ is the goal – certainly of Lent, even more so of life.

Suddenly, the idea of foregoing salt, chocolate, or Coke Zero for the next 40 days just got really, really trite…or really, really meaningful. I can’t decide which.

  1. That’s what is nice about you Presbys…you actually know that Lent begins tomorrow. :)

  2. You gave us the interpretive key to deciding whether giving something up is trite or meaningful — to make it meanful one must give something up that one uses to avoid giving in to Christ. For many people (especially in our culture) some forms of food can be very good for this — they don’t call them comfort foods for nothing. Every time the craving hits, we are forced to seek our comfort elsewhere.

    Comfort, comfort ye My people,
    Speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
    Comfort those who sit in darkness,
    Mourning ’neath their sorrow’s load;
    Speak ye to Jerusalem
    Of the peace that waits for them;
    Tell her that her sins I cover,
    And her warfare now is over.

    – Jo­han­nes G. Olear­i­us

  3. Good thoughts Craig.

    So what ARE you going to give up? I recommend Coke Zero. It’s only chemicals anyway. Cancer in a bottle I call it.

  4. Actually, Tonia, being the pseudo-Presbyterian that I am, Lent actually started yesterday (Ash Wednesday). FYI.

    Glad a few of my thoughts seemed to help, Clay. As to Trevor’s question, I don’t know – I haven’t identified anything specific (I had a Coke Zero last night, so I guess that’s out). Most of the things that keep me from honoring God are just blatant sin, so it seems strange to say I’m giving up my perfectionism or my idealism or my judgmentalness for Lent (only to pick them up again after Easter).

    I don’t think food is that big a temptation for me (at least one that I don’t consider as coming between the Lord and me), but maybe it is. I have gained a little weight here in seminary, but I attribute that more to a slowing metabolism as I get older and a pathetic avoidance of exercise, though I’ve been exercising more these past weeks at our new YMCA.

    What are others giving up? Let me hear your ideas as that may help me.

  5. Oh, Ash Wednesday…I have much to learn.

  6. Well, I had a sugar cookie and coffee this morning so both of those are out (white sugar and coffee). Internet’s out. T.V.’s out (watched a movie last night). Hmmmm…

    ok, got it.

    No corn syrup for forty days.

  7. I think the key to Lent is not the giving up part, it’s the putting on. Self-discipline and sacrifice are good, but so much better when what you are sacrificing gets replaced with something else, something more Godly. Give up TV? Great! Spend that time reading the Philip Yancey? Better. Give up fast food? Great. Spend a few dollars to buy the homeless guy on the corner lunch? Better.
    A lame Lent story, but one college friend gave up cursing for Lent. In exchange, whenever she slipped she had to put a dollar in a jar. On Easter Sunday she emptied her jar into the offering plate. She had to eat Ramen for a month after that Lenten season.

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