Every year, the same thing happens: people make commitments to stay away from social media, to give up sugar or to be less judgmental toward others. These goals sound like New Year’s resolutions, right?
Unfortunately, these are typical decisions made during the season of Lent, the 40 days of fasting leading up to Easter Sunday. The season begins with Ash Wednesday, when Christians who celebrate the holiday—mostly Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans and other more liturgical traditions—put ashes on their foreheads as a symbol of penance and God’s mercy.
Sadly, the ideas of penance, prayer and God’s ultimate sacrifice for humanity seem to be lost on some people during Lent. Students ask each other what they are giving up for Lent as if they were asking where they are going over spring break. The questions rarely include “What devotional are you reading through?”
Part of the reason for this may be the secularization of Lent. Indeed, many non-Christians celebrate the season, but not for religious reasons. They see it as a chance to get back on track after slipping up on their resolutions from January, or as a chance to just be a better person.
The idea of giving up something meaningful is supposed to inspire people to seek God more and not just to better oneself. Giving up social media doesn’t mean anything unless you spend the time you normally would have spent on Twitter by worshipping or praying to God.
We The Threefold Advocate urge students to take the season of Lent seriously, and not just treat it as a chance to start a new diet or stop procrastinating on homework. It is a religious holiday leading up to one of the most important days in the Christian religion, and people should treat it as such.
The practice of fasting, repentance and prayer during these 40 days leading up to Easter comes from Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert when he faced temptation by Satan. Different Christian traditions have differing guidelines to how Lent is celebrated, but the primary reason is to recognize one’s sins, repent and pray for God’s mercy.
If you think that giving up something in your life will truly help you grow closer to God and recognize his love and mercy, then by all means, go ahead and give up that thing. However, if you are just giving up something for a superficial reason or to follow a fad, we urge you to reconsider.