Lent is a season of preparation; a time for self-examination, fasting, sacrifice, and prayer as we prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The motivations behind the practice of Lent are summarized in Philippians 3:10-11 – “to know Christ.” “to participate in his sufferings,” “to become like him in his death,” “to know the power of his resurrection,” and, ultimately, “to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Indeed, these should be the motivation and purpose for all we do as Christians – to know Christ and to follow His example on earth.
As I reflect on the call of this passage – to participate in Christ’s suffering and death – I think of people all around me, whether in Africa or in Baltimore, who have no choices and face monumental challenges daily. These families might not be able to access healthy food, they face a myriad of health issues, some can’t find gainful employment, others are stigmatized or mistreated, and still others are fleeing from war and persecution. Is Christ calling us to join them in their sufferings? Is Christ calling us to celebrate with them the power of his resurrection?
April 1The answer to both questions is an unqualified YES!
We have no choice in this matter if we claim to follow Jesus. Christ is calling us to a life that is built on these principles – a life of challenging self-examination, of sacrifice and self-denial, and of sharing the power of His resurrection with those we encounter each and every day. These principles that apply during Lent are also principles for joyous Christian living every day.
Over the past 25 years, I have lived in some of the poorest countries in the world in central Africa and I now live in one of the poorest and most violent urban centers in Baltimore. I have experienced over and over the beauty and joy of Christ in the midst of suffering and challenges, always expressed and fulfilled through the body of Christ (His church) living and loving in community. Indeed, the community of believers is stronger and more beautiful when brought together by suffering and loss, and always with the power of His resurrection!