Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Romans 14 and Why I Don't Observe Lent

Growing up Catholic, I observed Lent. From Ash Wednesday, fasting, meatless Fridays (we were too poor to eat fish), all the way through to a looooooong Good Friday service. Yes, I observed Lent. I remember having conversations with my Catholic school classmates about what we were giving up for Lent. Typical answers were: candy, soda, pizza etc. At least, that's what I remember; my classmates might remember differently. But, hey, we're all middle-age now so all of our memories are suspect. :-)

When I left the Catholic Church, I obviously did not observe Lent. When I became a Christian (Catholics may say, "When you became Protestant...") I decided not to observe Lent for the simple reason that I did not find any value in it. The Protestant church I attend does have Stations of the Cross and some of my Christian brothers and sisters do give up something for Lent. I don't participate in any of these things.

My Christian brothers and sisters: Do not let anyone tell you that you must give up something for Lent, or that you must attend Stations of the Cross, or do extra devotions, or do meatless Fridays. Don't let anyone else tell you that you shouldn't, either. While I personally question the value of these things, I believe that whatever you choose should be between you and God. If you're fasting and giving up something for Lent, the world doesn't need to know about it:

Matthew 6:16-18English Standard Version (ESV)

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

If you don't observe Lent, you also, do not need to go on about it. Whatever side of the Lent issue you fall on, don't look down on your brothers and sisters who are on the other side.

So, my unsolicited opinion regarding Lenten observance, or any observance for that matter is this: You're not holy if you do and you're not holy if you don't. It's not a salvation issue and observing Lent is one of those non-essential matters. You are only made holy by the blood of Jesus.

I invite you to read from Romans 14.

 Romans 14 English Standard Version (ESV)

14 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.


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