Saturday, March 12, 2011

Evangelicals, Lent Us Your Ears!

AOL/Huffington features a column by one Tim Suttle, encouraging evangelicals to embrace the Lenten fast/sacrifice as a way to check the experience of "satiation," restoring a sense of dependence on God.

Fair enough and common enough, that's Lewis's point restated. We give it a B+. It's true and has value but misses the imperative opportunity.

We continue to offer this challenge, differently expressed yet again:

The follower of Jesus who understands the cross as demanding that one give one's life for the sake of others will constantly have her tendency to satiation checked by stepping out to risk serving another. That makes Lenten fasts redundant.

Maybe the church at large is frustrated with the shallow discipleship of the church in our age (and ages past) because we keep constructing shallow proxies for genuine discipleship.


Anonymous said...

Why do you insist on either or? You are quite redundant yourself.

And smug.

Anonymous said...

And we will say it again, your view of how many Christians observe Lent is narrow. But narrow is what we've come to expect from you.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Anons, enter by the narrow gate.

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that Anonymous calls you narrow when many in your circle find you more tolerant and open than most to listening to other ways of thinking though in the end you will always come down on the biblical, not man created, way of doing things--Jesus, self-sacrifice for others, the cross, communion, baptism and all that. As a person who is not a New Testament or Greek scholar (i.e., me), I know better than to get into a disagreement with you. Oh, and Anonymous is still choosing deliberately to miss your point, I would suspect. I would give up.

Jim Shoes said...

What some commenters seem to have given up for Lent is thought.

SWNID's point is that serving others is a better way to focus on the message of the cross than simply giving something up, whatever marginal benefit that has.

So far as I can tell, no one has disputed that point at all.

And it's clear that some people have not given up name-calling for Lent.

Steve said...

I'm a little late to this Lenten after party, but I just want to offer a counter position.

Within the evangelical church today, service is hip and/or cool. I know of congregations that, decades ago, wouldn't have touched the "social justice" label with a ten foot pole, yet fully embrace it today because they're convinced it's the ideal reaction to Christ's love. Social justice itself hasn't really changed—it's still expressing the love of Christ to others. The only thing that has changed is the way that broader population views it. Multi-billion dollar corporations allow employees to do service projects while on the clock and churches will scrub their worship gathering to go out and "be the church." Martin Luther would be concerned as it appears that, in the same way some Lenten observers fast towards justification, the "servolution" is taking place with the same motivation.

Just last night I had a conversation with a staff member at a mega-megachurch who oversees their church's community outreach. They have had to retool their entire philosophy because church members are solely approaching them for "something to do." In essence, service is becoming a front for displaying one's spirituality. And hence, it too becomes an experience of satiation.

I'm satisfied with our congregation not only observing Lent but also serving our community because we intentionally clarify the objective behind the action. Is there the possiblity that the layperson might misconstrue the reason for doing these things? Of course. But we run the same risk in the disciplines of prayer and the study of Scripture.

Anonymous said...

Jeff has a way of saying things that I think better than I can think them.

Fasting for, not from, that's a good place to start.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Maybe. "Fasting for" is still not doing what we're called to do, however, which is give our lives for the sake of others. Why not just do that instead?

Or as the prophet put it:

Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

And so on. Quite strikingly relevant, we think.