Lent is a season of the Christian year that occurs during the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday (excluding Sundays). The word “Lent” comes from the Old English word lencten, which means “springtime,” and it is a time when Christians focus on spiritual renewal and growth. Lent is seen as a time of fasting, prayer, and penance, which allows Christians to reflect on our own mortality and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross.
The 40-day period of Lent is also symbolic of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness before beginning his public ministry. During this time, Jesus fasted and prayed, and was tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:1-11). For centuries, Christians have used this time to reflect on their own temptations and struggles and to draw closer to God through prayer and fasting.
How is Lent associated with Ash Wednesday?
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls 40 days—counting only Monday through Saturday—before Easter Sunday. The obervance is a day of repentance and mourning for sin. Many Christians attend a special church service on this day, during which they receive ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. This is meant to be a symbol of their mortality and a reminder of how Jesus died on the cross to reconcile us to God (1 Pet. 3:18).
How is Lent associated with Holy Week?
The final week of Lent is known as Holy Week, a time of intense reflection and prayer. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, which commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (John 12:12-19, et al.), and it ends with Easter Sunday, which celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (John 20:1-18, et al.).
Many churches hold special services during Holy Week, including Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services. Maundy Thursday is a commemoration of the Last Supper, during which Jesus shared a last meal with his disciples and told them to do this in remembrance of him. Good Friday is a solemn day of mourning and reflection, as Christians remember Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
Easter Sunday marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the Easter season. Easter is a day of joy and celebration, as Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Why do observers of Lent give things up?
One of the most common practices during Lent is fasting. Historically, one of the most common forms of fasting during this period was to give up meat on Fridays. This is a tradition that dates back to the early days of the Church, when meat was considered a luxury item and abstaining was therefore seen as a way to show sacrifice and penance.
Today, many Protestant Christians also choose to give up other indulgences during Lent as a way to focus on their spiritual lives.
What other practices are associated with Lent?
In addition to fasting, Lent is a time for focused prayer and reflection. Many churches that observe Lent hold special services and Bible studies during this time, and believers are encouraged to spend more time in prayer and meditation on Scripture. Some also choose to participate in acts of service or charity during Lent as a way to give back to their communities and to show God’s love to others.
Do Southern Baptists observe Lent?
As with most issues that are not directly commanded by the Bible, the observance of Lent is seen by most Southern Baptists as a matter of personal conviction and conscience. Lent is not a tradition that is as prominent within the SBC as it is for other Protestant traditions, such as Anglicanism. However, Lent is still a meaningful time for many Southern Baptists who choose to participate in this season of reflection and repentance.
For Southern Baptists, the focus of Lent is not on giving up something for the sake of giving it up. Instead, the focus is on spiritual growth and drawing closer to God. Many Baptists choose to participate in Lent by giving up something that distracts them from their relationship with God, such as social media or junk food. This act of self-denial serves as a reminder to turn our attention back to God and to focus on our growth in him.
As Southern Baptists, we are called to live out our faith every day, not just during the Lenten season. However, Lent may provide us an opportunity to renew our commitment to God and to focus on the things that truly matter. By using this season to draw near to God and to serve others, we are able to live out the gospel message before a watching world (Col. 4:5-6).