From our Pastoral Council President, John Dullock…
Lent – Give It Up!
Here we are again. It’s almost Lent. Oh my, I have no clue what I’m giving up this year. What are you giving up? I’m giving up candy! I’m giving up drinking pop! Hold on, I’ve heard that Sunday’s aren’t counted, so do I get a day off from my huge sacrifice? That’s not true. Yes, it is! I Googled it, so I know I’m right. And the conversation goes on and on, year after year.
In excess of a billion Christians (Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, and Methodists, etc.) observe Lent each year. The scriptural impetus for Lent is the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism. Lent is about sacrifice and strengthening our relationship with God; however, are we doing the right strengthening exercises? The pews are filled on Ash Wednesday, so that’s a sign that we Christians take this time of year very seriously. Or do we? Are we taking it serious enough when we give up something superficial? Are we missing the opportunity for true growth in personal improvement and Godliness? Is our sacrifice making this a better world to live in?
In one of our most recent gospels, Matthew states: “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.” So today, for this article’s sake, I’m switching out the word salt in the previous verse. Now it reads, “You are the society of the earth; but if society has lost its taste, how shall society be restored?” Everywhere you turn, people are taking sides against each other. There’s more and more intolerance, political divisiveness, and negativity towards one another. Sadly, we seem to be living in an increasingly uncivil community. From political jabs to random internet comments, there seems to be more and more rude, demeaning, insulting, and aggressive language and behavior in our society. If we are contributing to this problem, are we really doing more to displease God? Are we disappointing him instead of glorifying him?
Matthew goes on to say “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” So as we pick our sacrifices this Lent, what can we sacrifice (give up) that actually helps our light shine brighter and helps our society be more tolerant of each other? I’m suggesting personal change this Lent, starting with little ole me and little ole you. We can simply make a point of being more positive, more tolerant of differing points of view, less argumentative, less confrontational. Let’s use our Christian energy in a positive way and reverse some of the societal patterns. Think about the challenge as we go through each day as we face the opportunity to shine and promote a more positive society. So let’s GIVE IT UP for my two suggested sacrifices this Lent.
GIVE IT UP! – Intolerance & Divisiveness
There seems to be no ‘middle’ anymore. It’s just one side pitted against the other. Social and news media has created the opportunity for some to toss their point of views out there like a grenade. The explosion happens and the battle begins. Here comes the rebuttal grenade. Boom! Ouch! That hurts! Let’s retaliate? Let’s shoot out the cannon ball. We can really hurt them with that. Bam! All of a sudden each side of the war has gained support and the participants increase. We are in a civility war!
It’s intolerance to opposing beliefs. This type of intolerance creates divisiveness against each other; however, this civility war allows each and every one of us the choice to participate or not. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for tolerance. Opposing views are just a way of life. It’s our reaction to the opposition that is in our control. Be a good listener! Be patient! Avoid confrontation! Choose your beliefs. But for God’s sake, stop bashing the opposing view. Love of neighbor is the external proof of the internal mystery of God. For political divisiveness, merely let your vote count in the next election. You have the power to choose whether you participate or not in this civility war. Give up divisiveness! Give up intolerance!
GIVE IT UP! – Negativity
Does it seem to you that people in general are just too negative towards each other? The majority of everyday conversation has a negative context: gossiping about someone, complaining about someone or something, griping, griping, and more griping. Do you find yourself participating in that negative conversation? Christ said that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Our speech simply puts on display what is produced in the heart—whether good or evil. If others want to know the state of our hearts, then they only need to listen to us talk. Be the salt of the earth! Ask the Holy Spirit to shine the light within you. Give up negativity!
The foundation of good character is making good choices and good sacrifices. Lent can be a wonderful season of grace for us if we give ourselves to it. For an entire Lenten season, possibly for an entire lifetime, eliminate intolerance, divisiveness, and negativity from our personal habits, and be the Godly example for others to “Give It Up” also.