Once again, we are in that period called the Lenten season. It is globally recognised by Christians all over the world as a time of fasting and prayer and self examination. Observance of this period differs depending on church denomination. While the mainstream orthodox churches (Catholic, Anglican, Methodists) observe it strictly, others such as Evangelical and Pentecostal churches pay very little attention or encourage their members to fast during the period.
The purpose of this writing is not about the whether to observe lent or not, rather it is about paying consistent and continuous attention to the tenets of the Christian faith, whether during or after the lenten season.
I grew up in the Methodist church and as a child, I observed the difference in my parents attitudes during and outside of the Lenten period. My parents were very strict and It seemed to me that they were more patient towards us children during the Lenten period; it felt like Christmas coming early. As children, we were not required to fast, however we missed not having to eat meat during this 40-day period. We soon got tired of eating fish and beans but that did nothing to dampen the excitement of knowing that we could get away with some things since our parents were trying so hard not to express anger and they did not want us to be the cause of their committing sin. Unfortunately sometimes, they lose it and end up blaming us for causing them to commit sin.
Then comes Easter. The excitement peaked at this point because we got to eat chicken and all the meats we had missed out on for the past 40 days. After the Easter weekend however, it would seem like everything reset in our home. Us children knew that it was time to buckle up and not cross our parents because they were now back in their elements. One could not help asking the question, ‘So what was the 40-day fasting meant for?’
As Christians, our way of life should be the same whether during or outside the Lenten period. In scripture, we have many places where fasting is referenced. Before making important decisions, the church fasted and prayed (Acts 13: 1-3) Some chose to live a fasted life such as Anna the daughter of Penuel (Luke 2:36) She was a an 84-year old widow who had chosen not to remarry since her husband died 7 years into their marriage. She lived in the temple where she worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. We are not told what kind of fast but it was continuous.
Jesus himself fasted for 40 days and nights. This is most likely the basis on which Lent rests on although there is no scriptural basis to observe lent as Jesus did unlike the Holy communion where Jesus expressly told us to observe it in remembrance of him (Matthew 26:26)
Jesus taught about fasting. He did not command us to fast but he taught us how we should fast. He taught us that fasting should be personal between us and God and should not be something that should be announced to all. (Matthew 6:16-18) This runs contrary to the kind of social media fasting we see these days where people actually post what they have decided to give up for Lent. I believe there people who are sincerely fasting and praying during this period but there are others who see the period as a time to show people that they can give up some things or that they can be selfless.
I am not so much concerned with what happens during the Lenten season than what happens after it. Whether you are observing Lent or not, we should let the way of life that the Lenten season advocates for us as Christians, be a permanent feature in our lives. When we are loving, patient and kind during Lent, people would attribute our behaviour to the observance of a season but when we live a life that is consistently loving, kind and patient, then people will eventually know that our lives are a reflection of Christ living in us.
This is what we are called to be whether within or beyond the Lenten season.