If you say the word “Lent” to just about anyone the first thought that usually comes to mind is that this is a time of sacrifice, a time to give up something for 40 days. But if we see Lent as only that then we are only seeing part of the picture.
The idea of giving something up is an exercise in self-denial, a process of learning to put your focus not on human, material and temporary things, but instead on heavenly, spiritual things. But most people miss that second part.
Jesus said in Mark 8:34 that we are to deny ourselves – give up human desires – but in their place pick up the cross. This is the second half of the Lenten experience.
Lent is more than a time of sacrifice and giving up. It is a time of also taking on challenges. Once we are able to deny the human desires that are so strong in us, we can fill that void with spiritual endeavors.
Our 40-day journey to Easter is a time where we are confronted with the need for each of us as Christians to take on an attitude of costly grace. Costly grace is more than sacrificing those bits and pieces of life that are unnecessary anyway. Costly grace is taking on an attitude of holy giving, of living the way Jesus lived by investing ourselves completely and whole-heartedly in the work of God.
Costly grace means doing the work of Jesus in our society today. It means standing up against injustice. It means offering your whole self to the benefit of the needy, and to those who are spiritually empty, who need that relationship with God.
Paul has something to say about sacrifice and costly grace in his letter to the church in Rome. What should be our sacrifice? If we give our bodies as sacrifices, what holy act are we doing?
Notice that Paul says that our bodies should be “living sacrifices.” We are not simply to die for a good cause, but we are to live for the service of God. We are to act and do and perform works of mercy and compassion. In so doing we are worshiping God in our behavior, worshiping God in our very being.
Lent is more than an exercise in giving up. It is a lesson in taking on the life of a Christian, living out the love of God.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Where is your living sacrifice needed in the world around you?