Something’s bugging me. And it has to do with me.
Today is the start of Lent, the forty-day period leading up to our celebration of Easter. It’s tradition to give something up for Lent, whether it’s chocolate, TV, Facebook, or the musical sounds of Justin Bieber. It is a wonderful, ancient practice that has been getting more attention the last few years. Its benefit is in preparing our hearts and reflecting on what our Lord Jesus went through for us. To suffer and find some solidarity with Christ’s sufferings.
Why do we need to do this?
Glad you asked. We live in a culture that is so bubble-wrapped and cushy that giving something up has become a felt need for many of us. Suffering is a rarity. It is, because when it comes our way we are always shocked. We live “blessed” here in America.
We have fully adopted this mindset in the church. We equate God’s blessing with the American dream. While we scoff at the ridiculousness of the “health and wealth/name it and claim it” gospel, we cling to a version of it. In Christ, God is ready to give us “The Life You’ve Always Wanted.” Not to pick on the book with this title, but this is such a popular message and an underlying layer of Christian sub-culture.
While I do believe God wants to bless His people (so that they in turn are a blessing), this was not the central focus of Jesus’ message about the kingdom or what life would look like for kingdom people.