The church year has cycled through once more, and the season of Lent--a season of repentance--is here again. But what does that even mean? Well, it can mean that we say to ourselves, "I need to give something up--something BIG. I'll remind people of what I'm giving up, because it's a big deal and I'm doing such a good job. I'm being so faithful and strong! I'll compare myself to people who don't make as big of a sacrifice as I do, or to those who don't even make a sacrifice at all. They're so sinful! But I'm not. I'm doing it right; they're doing it wrong. They sure aren't as good at Lent as I am."
Or, Lent can mean we roll our eyes and say, "I can't believe them! I can't stand those people bragging about their sacrifices. I don't give anything up for Lent. That'll show them. I make sure to tell people, because they ought to know that I'm not like those other people. I'm the one who's really faithful. I'll compare myself to people who are making sacrifices. They're so self-righteous! But I'm not. I'm doing it right; they're doing it wrong. They sure aren't as good at Lent as I am."
Repent! Repent of making Lent all about us: our works, our decision, our actions. Lent is a time of seeing our sin and our need for a Savior. And we can't even do that right! We want to make everything about us. We say, "It's all about me, even Lent." We live like there is no God and we hate our neighbor. But it doesn't end with that. What does Lent mean? Lent means Easter is coming and that Jesus, the very Son of God and yet a man, died and was raised from the dead, taking our sin and giving us His righteousness. He comes to forgive us of all of our sin, including our sin-ridden repentance, and even our sin-ridden Lent.
This Lent, we are free to give something up, and we are free not to. Neither choice makes us righteous; neither choice will make us better in the eyes of God. We all stand as helpless sinners, but sinners covered by the holy blood of Christ, washed in baptism, clean in God's eyes. During Lent, we see our sin, we repent, and try not to fall into it again. There's no "I'm righteous," "I'm good," "I'm pleasing God." Instead, just like the rest of the church year, there's "I'm a sinner. Christ died for me and redeems me."
Molly Buffington is a member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Cullman, Alabama, and studies history at the University of Alabama.
Created: February 15th, 2016