Lent is often thought about in terms of giving up sweets, or red meat, or alcohol, or movies, in an attempt to create an ‘attitude of repentance.' Those items are external to us, even though we can be awfully attached to them. What’s deepest is our self-feeding, our desires to have what we want, and be comfortable. So it doesn’t matter what physical things we give up these seven weeks. The question is whether we’re willing to give up our whole lives. Like Jesus did. And follow Jesus.
Passion Week, as it’s called, is not about feeling something deeply. The word passion comes into English from the Latin, in its original context meaning suffering or submission. Jesus did both. He walked willingly to Jerusalem, submitting himself to the suffering he was about to endure as the twisted ‘passions’ of humanity were dumped on him — the anger, jealousy, envy and hatred of the Jews and the Romans alike. He submitted himself to his fate even as he tried to persuade people to repent of their wrong thinking about God and themselves, and to submit to the love of the Father who had created them.
Jesus became the target of all that was wrong in the people to whom he, their Creator, had given life. He gathered all that evil up into himself on the cross, and by dying as a victim of our sin, gave up his life to give us new life. Paul writes passionately in Gal. 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” By giving up himself for us, Jesus opened the door and welcomed all people into new life with him. But notice, it’s not life on our terms. It’s life with Christ, a crucifixion of the old self and an acceptance of the free gift of his forgiveness and new status. We must be willing to give up our lives to accept his gift. We have to give up not only our normal named sins (lying, etc) but our own desire to work things out ourselves, earn our place, hold our heads up and 'accomplish something.'
Giving up, at Lent, is not about giving up donuts or steak. It’s about giving up everything. As Jesus did for us. All of it. In order to gain everything. Can you follow Jesus in giving up?