The season of Lent is a time where we are called to look at the totality of our Christian journey. The reason for this inspection is to better appreciate the glorious reality of the Gospel AND to better understand the implications of that same Gospel.
If we claim to have experienced the new birth, then we must not shy away from this process. To engage in introspection is to challenge ourselves to stoke the fire of faithfulness. We are not merely to be the beneficiaries of God’s goodness. We are to be the distributors of the same mercy that we have received. In many ways, this is the simplest and clearest way of demonstrating that we value God’s grace. If the Gospel of Jesus is good news to us, then it should also be good news to others.
It can be difficult to see this connection, but the truth is that we all find ourselves on the same sinking ship. We all are in need of saving from the same situation—our sin. Therefore, to recognize the predicament that we are in is to see the need that everyone we encounter has. My need and their need are the same. We may describe it differently or talk about it differently, but it is the same. We are all on the brink of eternal disaster.
This is why I feel that on this first day of Lent we should look at self-denial. We cannot share with others the message of hope if we are hindered by fear, doubt, or pride. In truth, it does not matter the reason. We have to value the reality of redemption in Christ, we have to esteem it greater than any and every obstacle we can conjure up. We must deny ourselves, not because we have some sort of self-esteem problem. No, we must deny ourselves because the very nature of sacrificial love should call us to care for our neighbors with the same love God has demonstrated in Jesus.
It is in this sense that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we know how loved we are by God we should make every effort to love others similarly, however imperfectly we end up doing it.