What is Lent?

Traditionally, Lent is a period of fasting or self-denial that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. This year, in 2023, it starts in a couple of days: on Wednesday 22nd of February. It was established as a practice as early as the fourth century ¹ and I read recently that it is

“…a significant season in the year for Christians – a time of solemnity and self-reflection where they confess their failings and resolve to live a more godly life based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.” ²

Why do we do this? Is there a Scriptural grounding for the practice, or is it something that people felt like doing?

Back in the Old Testament, repentance and fasting, times of solemnity and self-reflection wherein people confess their failings, were common:

“Now when Mordecai became aware of all that had been done, he tore his garments and put on sackcloth and ashes. He went out into the city, crying out in a loud and bitter voice.”

(Esther 4.1)

“So I turned my attention to the Lord God to implore him by prayer and requests, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.”

(Daniel 9.3)

Sadly, some nowadays will use the season of Lent to try and earn God’s blessing: ‘see God, I’m super serious about getting this/that…‘. Paul wrote to the Romans and said that God’s blessings can never be earned, even if you give up chocolate for six weeks:

“…if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!’

(Romans 5.17, note ‘the gift’).

As New Covenant believers ³ we are free to observe Lent if we wish (Romans 14.5-6) but there is no obligation. Observing and not observing Lent will neither gain nor lose you favour with God (1 Corinthians 8.8): He already loves you to the greatest possible extent and has proven it in the most spectacular way possible (John 3.16).

If you feel like you need a period of time working towards Easter to focus on what is really important in your life, then consider observing Lent this year. I will be. I feel like I need to return the majority of my focus to the Lord, not what I can or cannot do for Him.

We are free to observe Lent if we wish, and if you would like to observe Lent with me this year, send me a message and we can observe it together. 

¹ – https://theconversation.com/what-are-the-origins-of-lent-155622

² – https://christianity.org.uk/article/what-is-lent

³ – https://open.spotify.com/episode/6V9yDNQgFUdXfIMN1CgeJC?si=GmAyX2ZBQQ6LiCiCVpU0yQ

Published by James Travis

Pastor of Saar Fellowship in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Married to Robyn and Dad to our two boys.

3 thoughts on “What is Lent?

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