Person having ash cross drawn on forehead

Do You Do Lent?

Person having ash cross drawn on forehead

I still consider myself to be learning about Lent. Growing up as a Baptist in the rural south, Lent was not a part of my faith tradition for much of my life. On the rare occasions Lent came up in the Baptist circles I traveled in during my younger days, the discipline was typically dismissed as an unbiblical, Roman Catholic practice.

While in some ways I feel like I’m still trying to get the hang of Lent (even though I’ve been practicing Lent for many years now), I have come to embrace the discipline. Despite the criticisms I heard in my younger days, it’s not really accurate to say that Lent is an unbiblical, Roman Catholic practice.

Yes, Roman Catholics do practice Lent, but it did not originate with them and many Protestant groups also practice Lent. While the 40-day season of Lent as practiced today is not mentioned in the Bible, every discipline traditionally associated with Lent is. Fasting? It’s mentioned in many places in the Bible including Jesus’ instructions on fasting in the Sermon on the Mount. And in those instructions, Jesus said “when you fast,” not “if you fast” (Matt. 6:16-18), Prayer? We all know that’s in the Bible. Sackcloth and ashes? These are mentioned on the pages of scripture as signs of repentance associated with seasons of prayer (eg. Jer. 6:26; Dan. 9:3; Jonah 3:6). Aaron Damiani responded to typical Protestant criticisms of Lent in an article that appeared in Christianity Today last year. 

My decision to embrace Lent has less to do with overcoming common Protestant objections and more to do with the good aspects of the practice that became apparent to me. Through Lent we can engage the biblical story that forms us. It’s one thing to say that Jesus fasted for 40 days and another to actually follow His example. And, as I follow His example in the days leading up to Good Friday, it becomes a tangible step to better ensure that I’m taking Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross seriously. 

It’s a reminder in an often busy, distraction-filled world that Jesus, through His voluntary death, did something beyond profound for me and for the world. Something that continues to mold me and the world now. Something that should never be taken lightly. Something that deserves my deepest appreciation and highest praise. Something that deserves reflection that leads to repentance in order that I may take up my own cross and follow Him well.

Is Lent the only way to properly revere the cross? No. But it is a way to join with millions of Christians around the world in tangible steps of preparation for the most holy days on the Christian calendar. Steps of preparation our Lord Himself took. In my experience such steps of preparation on the way to the cross cause the joy of the resurrection to rise higher in my life.