This is a guest post by Chris Kretzu. Chris lives in Southern California with his wife and son. He is a big fan of cooking, the beach, and front porches. He is the Growth & Development Director at Mariners Church. @kretzu
It's the time of year when people are cranky, crabby, and reaching for the Advil. That's right, it's Lent. We're a couple weeks in to a season in which hundreds of thousands of people in countries all over the world fast from something or some things.
In fact, I would say that most people - religious or not - understand Lent as a season of fasting or abstaining from different things. It causes us to suffer in very small ways and to be reminded of the suffering that Christ endured, even to death. As I "suffer" or find myself wishing I could have a soda, I take that opportunity to spend time in prayer. Prayer is the second part of Lent. Short prayers or long; it doesn't matter. The hope is to deepen my relationship with Christ and be reminded of what it means to pick up my cross.
Interestingly enough, there is a third aspect of Lent that is often forgotten or neglected; serving. (Or more traditionally "alms-giving.")
Lent and Justice
Lent has been described as a time of justice towards God, justice towards self, and justice towards our neighbor. Justice is essentially giving someone their due. So during Lent we reaffirm who God is in our lives, we remind ourselves who we are, and respond to who our neighbor is.
We can't reaffirm who God is (Creator, Lord, King, Savior, Friend) and remind ourselves of who we are (broken, forgiven, graced, loved) without responding to who our neighbor is. The prisoners, the fatherless, the widows, the aliens and immigrants, the poor, the disadvantaged and the enslaved. Something is broken with us if we can spend 40 days trying to focus on, and grow deeper in, relationship with our great God, yet we somehow manage to forget "the least of these."
In this season of dying to ourselves and following Christ, we must hold a balance of all three parts of Lent, which also happens to be the three parts of the Great Commandment: God, others, self. As we try and mold our lives to more clearly look like Christ's, we have to be willing to give every part of ourselves away. Soda, meat, sweets, Facebook,...and maybe even something that actually costs us something. Time, money, energy, a coffee, a bag of food, an hour of our day, a day of our week.
Death and Increasing Life
Lent is a season of bright sadness. It hurts to give ourselves - our lives - away. But just like physical death isn't the end, dying to ourselves isn't the end either. Christ died so that we could have life, and He said that we should also "do this." When we die to ourselves, when we give ourselves away, it brings new life to others. And what is even more amazing is that as we give ourselves away, we don't just lose ourselves. We don't shrivel up and die. We don't lead miserable lives, wandering around muttering; "I really wish I didn't buy that homeless man a cup of coffee last week." We are actually filled and fulfilled! We receive beautiful promises from God because this, in fact, is "the kind of fasting that He has chosen."
If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
So as you walk through the rest of your Lenten season, may you remember to walk in justice towards God, justice towards self, and justice towards your neighbor.
This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.