Dispatches

FREEDOM FROM BONDAGE

PART 1
The season of Lent involves much more than giving up coffee or an ice cream cone—like total honesty for instance

The great advantage to following the Christian calendar and walking through the liturgy is simply the ability to journey through the Life of Christ in quite a special way.  Now, as we walk through the Lenten season and we look forward to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, one issue looms above us… that of Self-Denial. 

Self-Denial has for some time, and in many traditions, been linked with the giving of monies for overseas work. However, for the purposes of following in the journey of Christ, we see no such connection, at least not in a concrete way. While the issue of denying ourselves of a coffee or an ice cream cone may in fact contribute to the work around the world, this sort of self-denial is at best superficial and at worst self-centered. Self-denial as we see it through the proper lens of Christian history is deeply sacrificial, some might even say costly. Self-denial brings us closer to relying entirely upon God for our well-being and our sustenance. 

In this way we can suggest that Lent is not so much about giving up coffee, or giving up this thing or that thing, in order to place more dollars into the offering plates. Rather, Lent is about identifying with utmost honesty that which holds you back from the cross of Christ. For Peter it was the servant girl around the fire, for Thomas it was the doubt and for Paul it was his own traditions and laws. We can identify within ourselves that which holds us most tightly from bearing the cross of Christ, from picking it up daily, from walking with Christ up that hill to Calvary. Once identified, that sacred cow must be sacrificed upon the altar of God without hesitation. We are then at once set free from the bondage of that thing, whether it was a good thing or not, and set free to bear witness to Easter Sunday and the resurrection power of God!  You see, we cannot be part of the Resurrection if we are not also part of the Crucifixion.  It is in this 40 day journey through Lent that we can identify and sacrifice this barrier to the cross.

I once heard the phrase, “I want God to look past my sins and see me.” This phrase gives us an understanding of what can become a quite self-centered theology and understanding of how God works. You see, if God looks past my sin and sees me, He still inevitably sees my sin. I would rather God look past my sin and see Jesus.  And it is only through deep self-denial and true sacrifice that I can possibly begin to look more and more like Christ. For His was a life marked by self-denial, coming to earth in the vessel of a helpless baby and growing to empty Himself in order to be poured out far and wide for the salvation of His own creation. 

Lieutenant Matthew McCluer serves at the Salvation Army corps and community center, Lawrence, KS

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