With Easter approaching many individuals from different religious backgrounds have different views of the Lenten season that begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Palm Sunday, excluding Sundays. It is the 40 day preparation period before Easter where people repent and change their lifestyles to honor God.
The Rev. William Banks, a bible scholar and author who serves as associate minister of the Piney Grove Baptist Church in Philadelphia, believes lent is a time for people to humble themselves before the Lord to remember the tough time Jesus endured leading up to and during the crucifixion.
Rev. Banks said “People prepare for Easter in remembrance of the passion, burial, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Although the Roman Catholic Church is usually the one that universally recognizes the season, other churches participate in varied ways. One area of debate is how lent should be observed. Many individuals believe it is a time to fast and give up guilty pleasures, while others view it solely as a time to get closer to God.
The Rev. Lisa Robinson of First Baptist Church of Guilford in Columbia echoed those sentiments, but took it a step further to mention the value of self-examination.
“In my life the season of lent has come to represent the shedding of attitudes, words and actions and thoughts that build barriers between God and me, as well as family, friends, associates and coworkers,” Rev. Robinson said. “It is a time of self-examination of where I am and where God wants me to be.”
She said there has always been a discussion of what really constitutes an appropriate sacrifice. Some eat fish and omit meat from their diet; others lean more towards material things. People fast television or phones; gossip or gambling. There’s no end to the choices.
John Kearny, a member of New Unity Church Ministries in Baltimore believes the Lenten season is a self-reflection period of strengthening the relationship with God, and one year took a materialistic approach to honoring lent.
“One year I did not get my hair cut and the money I would have used for my haircut I gave extra in my offering.”
Beneisha Dawson, a member of Israel Baptist Church, had a similar view as Kearny.
“We are taking a walk in Jesus’ shoes by giving up something that has an impact in our lives in a strong way to feel what [Jesus] felt in the dessert,” said Dawson.
“I’ve given up sweets and electronics to prove to myself and God that he means more to me these things, which are fleeting.”
However some argue that giving up materialistic things takes away from the true vision of the season.
Jeff Knapp, a leader in the Campus Crusade for Christ Ministries and a member of Hope Chapel in Greensboro, N.C. doesn’t believe in abstaining from treats such as sodas or snacks. He reasons that those things are not inherently sinful and doesn’t want his sacrifice to turn into what he terms a “legalistic pursuit.”
“The point of lent for me is to prepare myself to celebrate the work of Christ…his death and resurrection. It involves repentance and self-reflection on deeper things in my life/world like sin, sorrow, suffering, idolatry in a way that I see and yearn for Christ to make all things right, both in me and in the world,” said Knapp. “It basically serves as a time to sharpen my focus on Jesus' life, death and resurrection in order to make Easter that much richer and meaningful.
John Daniels of Sergeant Memorial Church in Washington, D.C. practices lent by daily devotions and prayer and instead of giving up something.
“I made a personal vow to consciously make an effort to pray every night before bed and every morning before getting started with the day. I always understood Lent to be a time when we’re supposed to get closer to God,” said Daniels.
“Giving up sweets won’t make me feel closer to God. I understand the significance of giving up a pleasure, but the last time I did that for Lent, I didn’t feel any closer to Him.
The Rev. Dr. H Walden Wilson II, pastor of the Israel Baptist Church, emphasized giving up bad habits.
“I celebrate lent by worshipping God,” Rev. Wilson said, adding, “by making sure every Wednesday I ask for repentance in becoming closer to God.”