There is a great piece on Lent in the Federalist by my friend Todd Peperkorn. He makes an excellent case for the helpfulness of giving stuff up during Lent, especially in this day and age. He does more than that, though, so read it all, linked and excerpted after the jump.
From Rev. Todd Peperkorn, Why Lent Should Matter to Everyone, The Federalist:
Historically, there are three practices associated with Lent: Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving or works of mercy. It is a time when Christians mourn over their sin (called repentance) and learn again to trust in their Savior, Jesus Christ. Just like you don’t only go to a doctor once, in the same way a Christian can benefit from a “checkup” on their faith, to remind them who they are as baptized children of God.
In connection with this, Lent can be a time of great focus for the Christian. Our culture is inundated with input. As I sit here writing this on my iPad, I am watching my son do his homework, listening to another child crying, checking Facebook on my phone, all while drinking a Diet Coke at McDonald’s. Sometimes it’s a wonder we can think at all!
But in order to focus more on one thing, one must also learn to focus less on other things. In our secular culture, we can see this with the rise of minimalism in everything from apps on our phone to architectural design to how we lay out our kitchens. Great design leads to simplicity, not complexity. And because our lives are increasingly complex, something has to change in order for us to get out of the continual spin cycle of life. While these ideas are often held up as Buddhist in our day, they really belong to the Christian tradition just as much.In Christian terms, this is really why we “give up” things for Lent. Roman Catholics have historically done this the most, but other Christian traditions are learning to embrace it as well. By giving up something that is a regular part of your life (e.g. a kind of food or drink, games, or maybe even Facebook), this allows you to focus more on one thing. For the Christian, that one thing is Jesus Christ, who gave up everything for us, even life itself. So Lent can become a time of beautiful simplicity, hearing again the words of the Bible, and coming to God in repentant joy for what He has done for us.
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