Choosing Sacrifice This Lent
Traditionally, Lent served as a period of fasting, tangibly sacrificing a necessity in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Today, instead of sacrificing our daily bread, many Christians choose to go without one ‘luxury’ for Lent.
But have we forgotten the sacrifice Christ calls us to, of self-denial and cross bearing?
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24
In sacrificing only a luxury, it’s easy for us to forget the immensity of what Christ gave for us – his life. Regardless of what Lent was or has become, it reveals a truth consistent across Western culture. Our ability to choose.
Lent isn’t a biblical mandate. It is our choice. We can choose to sacrifice at Easter.
Image: Christians celebrate Easter in Pakistan.
In Lahore, Pakistan, a local church held a gathering in one of Lahore’s largest public parks for Easter 2016. As Christians of all ages gathered to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection, a suicide bomber came and claimed the lives of 75 people and injured 350 more.
Yet in the midst of pain and grief, the response of Pakistani believers was completely cross-focussed:
“We celebrate Easter knowing that at any time a suicide bomber can come and disrupt our service, our worship, our praying. Then I think, will it really be disrupted, or will I be sent into the fullness of worship?” – Pakistani Christian woman, mother of two.
Out of the beauty and complexity of this response, one thing shines through: they understand with profound clarity that their church attendance is never safe, comfortable or habitual. They make a conscious choice every time they gather to worship, every time they proclaim the gospel, every time they identify as Christians, to deny themselves and take up their cross.
This is the same sacrifice echoed in the lives of 245 million Christians worldwide who suffer for Jesus’ name.
Persecuted Christians do not always have political freedom to proclaim the gospel, but they do have a heavenly mandate; as we do, too. Despite their seemingly constricted faith, they choose to live boldly, brightly and faithfully. They actively count the cost, living life as Christ’s and awaiting death as gain.
Image: Christians in Bartella, Iraq, celebrate Easter surrounded by military protection.
As Lent draws to a close and Good Friday approaches, reflect on what Christ has called us to sacrifice. Are we using our current freedoms to make Christ known? Are we walking into church as a conscious choice or a habitual one? Are we abusing our earthly freedom by refusing to engage in our heavenly mandate?
This Easter, sacrifice the ease of a private and quiet relationship with Jesus for a vocal, vibrant and valiant one. Take your faith from private to public space.
On Wednesday 17 April, Open Doors is providing you with a practical way to do this through One With Them.
Join us as we stand with persecuted Christians in sacrifice and boldness. We’re asking you to:
- Sacrifice: donate one day’s wage.
- Be bold: declare why you follow Jesus.
Image: Stand One With Them this Easter.
Persecution increases in frequency and intensity during Easter, and so we need increased funds to respond immediately. Practical support is vital.
So is public proclamation. On 17 April we encourage you to draw a cross on your wrist and share it across social media with #OneWithThem. Tell people why you follow Jesus, why Easter matters, and why you care about our suffering family worldwide.
Take this step of sacrifice and boldness. Stand One With Them.