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As creatures of comfort we rarely court hardships, but Lent gives us an opportunity to give something up for a greater outcome, writes Justine Toh. Source: The Guardian. 

I’ve been a Christian for 20 years but have only just discovered the church season of Lent, the six weeks or so in the lead-up to Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday. Now, with the annoying zeal of a new convert, I’m convinced whether believer or agnostic, we’d all be better off leaning into the season.

As a society, we are already halfway converted. Familiar events in the annual calendar, like Movember, are Lent-like in their emphasis on giving up something, or focusing our collective efforts, in pursuit of a greater good. Feb Fast is a prompt to reset after the excess of Christmas, Dry July a mid-year pause to abstain from alcohol. Each event is time-bound and concentrated on a positive goal. When deployed like this, the argument goes, peer pressure is actually very good.

Then there are other Lenten adaptations that ditch the communal aspect, treating it more like a competitive sport.

The Lenten logic behind all of these is that discipline matters – and there are benefits of adopting a regime or schedule you wouldn’t necessarily choose for yourself. We creatures of comfort and convenience don’t willingly submit to hardship. We all need a nudge because “you do you” is fine until it gets hijacked by an all-too-human trait: we don’t reliably choose what’s good – for ourselves or each other.

When believers observe Lent, what they add on top of the discipline is discipleship, the commitment to bring their everyday life in line with their convictions. It’s hard. According to Jesus, the greatest commandment, or what helps life go best, is loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself.

This is what Lent is: a chance to willingly embrace discomfort for a greater outcome. And it’s not as though Jesus asks something of his followers he doesn’t do himself. The season takes its cues from the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness while the devil dangled earthly power and riches before him. But Jesus resists temptation – not because of how hardcore he was, but because he relied on God through prayer.

Justine Toh is a senior research fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity


Leaning into Lent: whether believer or agnostic, there are lessons for us all (The Guardian