What You Really Need To Give Up For Lent

Last Sunday after the worship service, people were filing out the door of my church as I was shaking hands and greeting them as they did.  

As they were leaving, one of my church members told me that they appreciated the sermon and that we were talking about what needed to be "undone" in our lives in order to more fully follow Jesus.  

But then he said, "We probably ought to be talking about giving up some other things for Lent, though."  I asked him what he meant exactly, and he replied, "Maybe we could talk about giving up racism, bigotry, and homophobia for Lent... just for starters."  

What I didn't have time to tell him before he left was that he had basically just planned my sermon series for Lent next year.  Why next year?  Well, for starters my sermons are already planned for this year, and there's plenty of good stuff in them that I believe we all need to hear.  

[And listen, if you don't attend my church you can still watch the sermons each week--you can access them from my church website: http://www.shpc.org/sermons/]

And here's the second reason why I can feel confident about waiting until a year from now, and it's a sad one:  All of those things that my church member mentioned will still be things that Christians need to give up if they want to embody Jesus to the world.     

I read a very convicting statement by Richard Rohr this week that still has me on my heels:  
The world no longer trusts Christians who "love Jesus" but do not seem to love anything else.   
That hurts, right?  It's true, though.  I think so many of us who call ourselves Christians have lost the ability to properly bear witness to the great love and grace of God through Jesus.  We might claim to "love Jesus," but live without any evidence that we can actually love like Jesus.  

And I know firsthand just how hard it is to love people who we have deemed unlovable--either because of our own prejudice or perhaps our difficult experiences with them in the past.  

However, those of us who claim to follow Jesus don't get a pass.  We have a direct call to a deeper kind of love and faithfulness that is echoed bluntly in the New Testament letter of 1 John: 
But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
During this season of Lent, begin to practice what it would look like to let go of all of your attachments to anger, distrust and hard feelings toward the difficult people in your life or in the culture around you.  Let yourself see them as God sees them, and let your heart be broken for them.  

And in so doing you may very well let them know that you not only love Jesus, but you desire to love like Him, too.  


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