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Should Christians Observe Lent?
Have you ever wondered about whether or not our Lenten practices and traditions are truly biblical? Do they seem somewhat contrary to the theology of the Gospel and the celebration of Easter? The truth is, there is a lot of contention among good Bible-believing saints as to the propriety of a season focusing on sin and guilt for a people who are forgiven of their sins by a God remembers them no more. It is a question worth looking into a little more deeply.
One Christian writer frames the question like this:
Christians can observe Lent, but they are not required to in any way. Lent is a time of preparation before Easter, so Christians are encouraged to participate and prepare their hearts. Some Christians do not celebrate Lent because they believe it is focused on legalism…They see the requirement of Lent as a violation of the fact that no works we do will save us. They also see those who practice it as a way of leading other Christians away from the true meaning of Easter. 1
 There is a somewhat valid point made here in this statement. There are those who take their Lenten practices to be meritorious act of self-denial that supposedly ingratiate themselves to God, thereby earning “merits” that bring them closer to their goal of earning admission into heaven. These do-gooders are the people mentioned in the passage above, they are focused on legalism and not on the Biblical truths of Christianity. They are the poor souls who seek to pay their way into heaven by doing enough good things to be accepted by God (as if God hadn’t already paid it all). They are forgetting Jesus, the One who did all things good, and won their passage into God’s good graces. They miss the point of Lent altogether. Lent is by no means a time to buckle down and get busy earning your own salvation, rather it’s a time to reflect on the things we did (and the things we failed to do) that made the Cross of Christ necessary for our salvation.
As good and true Lutherans, we’re taught that Lent is a time of inward reflection to see where we have fallen short of the Glory God wants for us, and to give thanks for the mercy and grace that flow from the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the Cross as payment for our sins.
The other side of the coin are the Christians that celebrate as if every day was Easter. I don’t fault them with bad theology (like the Catholics), but I do caution them about the dangers of becoming addicted to cheap grace. Those sugar-coated saints who constantly claim “I’m forgiven” without ever looking back to see the cost and carnage of their sin, really do cheapen the suffering of Jesus on the Cross. They see sin as a minor problem, just a slight indiscretion or faux pas instead of a catastrophic affront to the holiness of God.
The middle way is almost always the best way, we’ll choose that one. We recognize our sins (especially during Lent) and acknowledge the high price that was paid to settle our debt to God. While we don’t allow our sin to control us or cause us to cower before God, we recognize them, confess them, and seek to avoid them. We don’t whitewash our sins, or pretend they’re no big deal – we face them, and thank God that through Jesus’ work on the Cross we don’t have to pay for them ourselves.
Look back during Lent, see your sins, see the sorrow and suffering that you’ve caused. Walk the way of the Cross and understand the price Jesus paid for you. If you’ll do that, Easter will be all the more joyful and God’s Amazing Grace all the Sweeter!
In Christ’s Love! Pastor John
1CHRISTIAN QUESTIONS by EVELYN OLIVER Should Christians Observe Lent? (