A reflection on Lent

For Christ’s love compels us”, Paul writes.
To which I must confess reluctantly, “Not always”.
(However I don’t recommend that for your church’s next responsive reading.)

But if I’m honest, there are times when I am compelled by something very different than Christ’s love. Comfort, for one.  Self satisfaction for another. Then there’s pride, self justification and a small smattering of control issues.
Other than that, I am all about Christ’s love.

I am guessing that from time to time, you too are motivated by a few other things than Christ’s love. Which is why Lent can be a really good thing.  Even for protestants.
Lent is a time for giving up, letting go, and being grossly aware of how much you don’t want to give up or let go. But it’s that very awareness I believe God is looking for. More than how many successful days we have checking our boxes on our lent commitments.

Here’s how the verse reads in full:
“For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and was raised again.

Death is what Lent is about. It’s the only way we can experience a resurrected life.
If you’re like me, it’s not just about dying once, but every single day. Death to selfishness. Death to comfort. Death to pride. Even Death to how I am justified to react.

I have a neighbor who is…how do I say this in a “Christ’s love compels us” way? Difficult.
Most of the time I just try to stay out of his way. But one day I asked him as nicely as I could to park a little farther to the left so I could get out of our garage. He said I was being rude. (For the record, here’s a photo my husband “just happened” to snap. Note the angle of the left car):
car fiasco
After that, he proceeded to text my husband  that he couldn’t believe I worked at a church. (Don’t you love it when you are succeeding as a witness?) After talking my husband out of his urge to head next door to pummel him, a funny thing happened.

I decided to apologize.

Call it a case of WWJD, but I suddenly saw that with this particular person, it was the only way to let God shine.
And lest you think this was easy for me, here’s how it went down:
Me: I’m really sorry.
Neighbor: For???
Me: silent (with many thought bubbles hovering over my head)
Neighbor: For???? (yes, he repeated it)
Me: For being rude
Neighbor: THANK YOU. (pause for effect) THANK YOU.
And let’s just say it wasn’t exactly gratefulness driving his tone

“But Wait!”, you say. (Or maybe I just hope you do).
“It wasn’t you being rude- he was!”
You shouldn’t have apologized, he should have!”

Probably so.
And therein lies the power of the cross.

Which is back to the reason we do Lent.
In this life of shoulds and wants, the willingness to lay down our rights and absorb our discomfort is one small way we can participate in Christ’s journey. And that sometimes includes the discomfort others inflict upon us.

But we can find strength this Lenten season in the one who has gone before us.
Paul writes:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us- so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

If the sinless one can take on our sin, Can we who are sinful- and forgiven- help bear the weight of sin in others?

That’s the question Paul puts before us.
The only way to answer him is with our lives.
Lent image