Have you ever had times in your life when you did something just because everyone else was doing it? No, I’m not talking about those “If your friends jumped off a bridge” moments your mom scolded you about. The times I am referring to are the ones where you felt like you’d stand out like a sore thumb if you didn’t follow the crowd.
When I was a kid, that was my experience in church. I spent the whole time looking at those around me. Sit? Stand? Kneel? Grab a hymnal? What’s next? The same was true for Ash Wednesday and Lent. No one ever explained it to me so they had no meaning. This excerpt from an article I read expressed what I have come to know since I gave my life to Christ:
Ash Wednesday, like the season of Lent, is never mentioned in Scripture and is not commanded by God. Christians are free to either observe or not observe it. It also should be obvious that the imposition of ashes, like similar external practices, are meaningless, even hypocritical, unless there is a corresponding inner repentance and change of behavior. This is made clear in Isaiah 58:5-7 when God says,
‘Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?’
Observing Ash Wednesday and Lent cannot save you any more than not observing it cause you to lose you salvation. It is our heart that God is looking for. How we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus can vary greatly from person to person and church to church.The question is, is this just something you do 40 days out of the year or is it an outward expression of an inward reality that can be seen in your life the remaining 325 days of the year.
Food for thought.