Lent: Unity Instead of Division

By: Josué Villatoro

Lent, the season of the Christian Calendar that we are currently celebrating, is perhaps one of the greatest reasons for controversy, discussion, and debate in the Protestant Christian world.

This Christian commemoration, which begins on Ash Wednesday, is a frank and direct invitation to all of us who observe it, to prepare all that we are – our hearts, our minds, our time – to celebrate Holy Week in the best possible way. It invites us to order our lives and make the necessary arrangements to celebrate, with a pure heart and a clear conscience, the events of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lenten season reminds us to practice confession of sins, forgiveness, fasting, harmony, brotherhood, and compassion, among other spiritual disciplines. Don’t you think it’s an extraordinary idea, and worthy of being considered?

Yet, despite the fact that it could be a time of unity, harmony, and a communal longing to be more like Christ, it has unfortunately become in many circles a time of confrontations and accusations between different “camps” within the family of God.

On the one hand, there are those who are against the observance of Lent, because they think that it is exclusively celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps these brethren have not had the blessing of studying church history and are unaware that the Church of the Nazarene Historical Statement says that “our denomination receives the creeds of the first five Christian centuries as expressions of its own faith.” An exploration into those centuries will reveal that the First Nicene Council (held in 325) acknowledged the importance of Lent as a special time of searching for God, repentance and preparation for the Passion and Death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, in 384, Lent took on a sense of greater penance, fasting, and reflection for the Christian Church and began to hold even greater relevance. Despite the historical evidence, some evangelical brothers and sisters claim to defend the faith, arguing that those of us who observe Lent possess an “earthly vision” instead of spiritual focus, calling us “false prophets” or even “hypocrites.”

On the other hand, there are those who appreciate Lent, carry out services or special activities in their church or home, and try to teach the observance of this season. However, in their eagerness to defend what is correct in their perspective, and in their intention to show that they know more than others, they hurl insults at those who think differently from them, calling them “ignorant.” Some make sarcastic comments or hurtful jokes and try to show that they are on the right path, indeed, that they are several steps ahead of others.

Both groups forget some elementary aspects of our faith:

  • The mandate of Jesus Christ is first to love one another (Jn. 13:34).
  • The Lord himself has cautioned us to be careful not to call any of our brothers ignorant (Mt. 5:22-24).
  • The apostolic invitation is that our attitude be like that of Christ (Philippians 2:5).
  • As he prayed for us, Jesus Christ prioritized our unity (Jn. 17:21) and said that this would be the only way the world would know him (Jn. 17:23).
  • The apostle Paul, defending his ministry, mentioned that he had not preached with intellectual or human arguments (1 Corinthians 2:4), but that his preaching was Christ, and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).

For the purposes of this article, it does not matter what you think about Lent, whether you are for or against it, or whether you like to celebrate it or not. If you celebrate it, respect those who don’t; they are your brothers and sisters. If you don’t celebrate it, respect whoever does; they are likewise your brothers and sisters.

Do you want to defend your faith? Do so by having the attitude of Christ, behaving like Him, and loving your brothers. Do so by practicing humility, forgiveness, confession, and reconciliation. That is the true meaning of Lent.

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