What We Should Really Be Giving Up For Lent.
READ TIME: 6 MINITUES
Lent has always been one of my favorite seasons, although it’s never been emphasized by the churches I’ve attended. I love what Lent represents, a time to repent and refocus. We deny ourselves in order to meditate on the sacrifice that Jesus made, in order to become more like Him.
We spend the 40 days preparing our hearts for Easter, for Resurrection Sunday, when we celebrate everything Jesus has done and stand with Him, as humble and resurrected hearts.
The season is marked by fasting and prayer and reflection, some say to emulate the 40 days Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. We replace many of the trivial things in our lives with these practices that will realign our hearts to His. Essentially, we “give up” some stuff.
We fast meals and give up certain foods. We commit to stop watching TV and stop spending so much time on social media. We give up a hobby for a time. We even work on our behaviors and our habits. We nix jealousy and pride and comparison.
We feel really good about it.
We give up these things so we can draw nearer to Him, so we can hear His voice more clearly, so He can prepare us for what He has made us to do. We stop doing one thing so we can start doing another.
But I think our disfunction runs a lot deeper than our food choices and our social media habits.
When I think about the things that are actually holding us back, the behaviors that are poisoning our hearts, I start to think about our loyalties and our commitments.
We have loyalties to political parties, leaders, prophets, organizations, agendas, and they have become fundamental to our existence.
Are we willing to give up our loyalties if it means looking more like Jesus?
What about our commitments to politics and policies? Our opinions? The sides we take?
Are we willing to give up defending a political party if it means standing for what Jesus came to do? Are we willing to surrender our opinions if it means loving better?
A few thousand years ago, people were waiting for the Messiah, a warrior who would come and conquer the world. But they didn’t get the warrior they were expecting. Jesus came to conquer, but it was souls he came to win, not wars. He wasn’t accepted because he was not what they expected. He wasn’t what they wanted.
Today, it’s like we’ve become the Messiah they were looking for, taking the world by storm, telling people how they should and shouldn’t live, taking strong stances against the horrors of the world, doing whatever it takes to protect us and our own.
We look around, wondering what’s wrong with the world, thinking we can fix it by taking a side and pointing a finger. We can call athletes that kneel during a national anthem "worthless" and praise the name of Jesus with the same breath.
I’m not sure when the church became so self-righteous and full of opinions, but I’m trying to imagine what would happened if we surrendered it all for a minute.
Jesus didn’t come to take a side. He presented another way. A better way. The way of love and freedom. Jesus was known by what he stood for. And lately, his followers are only known for what they stand against.
We have to stop this crazy belief that just because we are Christians, Jesus is behind everything we do. We hold a certain opinion or join a certain side, and we are convinced that Jesus supports us. More than that, we start to put his name on the parties we join and the side we take and the choices we make.
Jesus doesn’t follow us. We follow Him.
Hear that. Jesus isn’t following us around, giving His blessing on every fight we decide to join just because He loves us.
But that’s how we’ve been treating Him. We are fighting battles in His name and hating people in His name and it’s time we take a step back and figure out where we are because Jesus certainly isn't behind us and it’s quite possible we’re traveling in different directions.
What he did call us to do was cast out demons in His name, lay hands on the sick in His name, baptize in His name, love orphans and widows in His name
As ministers of love, as bearers of the gospel, as the feet of Jesus, we are called to stand with the least, the outcast, the marginalized. We are called to love, always.
Isn't it our job to get dirty loving instead of being another pointing finger? To be a voice of compassion instead of shouting from our cozy little platforms?
The world needs the followers of Jesus to rise up and demonstrate that there is another way. And that way is not screaming about gun laws or pledging allegiance to an elected official. That way is not being outraged at every turn. That way is not being offended when humans act in a way that is not up to our standards.
News flash: Look in the mirror.
The other way is choosing to see what unites us rather than what divides. The other way is understanding that we are all knit together by a common creator and our home is in Him. Our job is to call our brothers and sisters back to where they belong.
When we start to identify as citizens of heaven, we start to see people instead of politics. We start to see stories instead of statistics.
We will understand that it's not our opinions that will matter but how we love. That Jesus doesn't care about our flags and our guns, but about the people who are slipping between the cracks, as we argue about laws and rules and agendas.
I think if we all could peel off off these labels and drop out of the crusades, we’d see that the problem isn’t the thing that we are fighting against. The problem is us and our failure to love without trying to fix first, to love without demanding perfection.
It’s time to lay our weapons down. To give up our arguments, our words, our prejudices.
It’s time to join a different fight.
The fight to love despite differences. The fight to love without limits. The fight to love without condition.
We do not side with Democrats or Republicans, but we are known by love.
We are not identified as conservative or liberal, but we are known as love.
We are not identified by our allegiance to a country, but by our loyalty to Heaven.
The Heaven that lives in us. The Heaven that we can and will bring to earth when we surrender our loyalties, give up our lives, and follow.
It’s time to realign our loyalties and learn to be a follower again.
Dare to give it all up, just for a moment, and see where Jesus leads.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Matthew 16: 24-26