It’s Lent. Started last Wednesday. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, is providing a strong lead and giving up crisps. Salt and vinegar being her weakness. So, I’m guessing the thought of giving something up for the next forty days has crossed your mind. Because that’s what Lent’s about, right? Honestly, I have very little idea what Lent is about. I’ve never been very good at paying attention to things that hold no interest for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really interested in Jesus’ death and his resurrection. But no so much the religiously inserted rigmarole that so often accompanies it in church tradition. After all, the Bible doesn’t talk about Lent. And so, it can’t be that important. It’s certainly not crucial to our Christian life. It might be useful but it’s not essential. We don’t have to observe it. A younger version of me would have railed against the imposition of any perceived religious ritual and flaunted my freedom in the gospel to ignore something I assumed was the re-imposition of Roman Catholicism. Aren’t you glad you didn’t know me at university?! There are valuable things that are part and parcel of Lent; meditation – by which I mean the prayerful consideration of the scriptures, perhaps especially focussing on the death of Christ and fasting. Fasting has value. But neither of those things need to be limited to this time of year. And neither of them is compulsory. So let’s keep this thing in perspective.
The single most important thing about Lent is freedom. You’re free to observe it if you want. And you’re free not to. It’s your call. But you don’t have to. Whether it’s a good thing for us to observe will likely be determined by what’s going on in our hearts. If you do please don’t look down on those of us that decide not to join you. Don’t judge us or condemn us. Don’t think you’re better or superior than us and that somehow you’ve attained a higher spiritual state. You haven’t. And be careful not to use your freedom to give it a go to lead a weaker brother into sin and cause them stumble. There may be some among us who’ve been saved from a Roman Catholic background who are constantly tempted back to putting our confidence in our fleshly observance of the religious traditions from which Christ came to set us free. Having you press that onto our conscience won’t help us to trust Christ alone for our salvation. Of course, if you don’t observe any Lenten habits then please don’t assume that those of us who do have turned Catholic. We probably haven’t. We probably just recognise the value of some of these things for our own Christians lives and that this time of year has provided the much-needed stimulus to arouse us from our spiritual lethargy and actually employ God’s means of grace. Obviously, I think there’s some value in observing Lent. But I’m not planning to. I’m just going to keep ploughing on with the same old, same old. Not because I can’t be improved upon. I can. And I probably should. But I don’t have to. So, I’m not going to. Not this time, it’s crept up on me unawares and I haven’t really prepared anything for it. But that’s OK because Christ’s death is all about forgiveness.