Lent is coming up soon and it gets me thinking about what I will give up for Lent. This is something that I have been doing for about ten years.
Having said that, I get pushback when I mention that I do something for Lent. The basic idea is that evangelicals should not observe Lent. I would like to address this by looking at the two most common objections. Before I do that, I want to make it clear that I am not arguing that evangelicals should observe Lent, as if it was some sort of religious obligation. I am only saying that there is nothing wrong with it.
1. Lent is Catholic
The concern for some people is that Lent is a Catholic tradition and is therefore something that should be avoided by evangelicals. I get the same reaction when people find out I participate in Advent.
It is important to understand the Luther-Calvin disagreement about worship. Luther taught that protestant worship could take whatever it wanted from the Catholic tradition unless it was prohibited by the Bible. Calvin taught that protestant worship should reject everything that was Catholic unless it was specifically affirmed in the Bible. I would fall in the Lutheran camp on this one. I observe Lent, not because I am trying to be Catholic, but because I find it spiritually edifying. I find nothing in the Bible that prohibits me from observing Lent.
2. Lent is Works Righteousness
The other concern is that observing Lent makes the person feel righteous because of their works. That may be how the critic would feel but that is not how I feel. I have never felt pride in my own strength during Lent. In fact it is the complete opposite. I am reminded how hard it is to give up even the smallest things and that I am weak on my own. Lent pushes me into relying on God’s strength alone.
I have no intention in trying to get evangelicals to observe Lent. It is a personal decision. However, I would like to encourage people to be tolerant toward other Christians and to allow them to practice spiritual disciplines that work for them.