Lent: The Antithesis of Valentine’s?

#TalkingThursday – If you don’t talk about Jesus who will?

Today, we’re looking at the convergence between Valentine’s Day and Lent. Valentine’s day this year falls on the first sunday of Lent. It may seem like Lent is the party pooper of Valentine’s but is it really? Have these two celebrations got anything to do with each other? Let’s find out.

Lent officially began yesterday – Wednesday, February 10 and it ends on Thursday, March 24th. Not every Christian feels the need to celebrate Lent. Certainly pentecostals don’t see the point of Ash Wednesday but we can’t ever say that fasting and rending our hearts back to God is of no use. Acts 3:19:

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord

In the book of Jonah, the people of Nineveh rent their clothes, poured ash on their heads and fasted till they received God’s mercy. They turned their hearts back to God and Lent teaches us to do the same too. The 4o days of Lent is an important aspect of preparing for our easter celebrations. Why must we recognize our frailties?

Because Jeremiah 17:9:

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?

The Church has been celebrating Lent (and its kick-off, Ash Wednesday) since sometime around the fourth century. The celebration of Lent was introduced because the church recognized how easy it was to go on with our day-to-day lives busily and unthinkingly, forgetful of our need for a savior. They wanted to build into the rhythm of the Christian life an intentional focus on repentance and renewal.  So, the Lenten season eventually emerged – a focused time of reflection and fasting encompassing the 40 days leading up Easter.  It’s forty days designed to help the Christ follower celebrate Easter by remembering daily our deep need of Christ’s love, rescue, and unstoppable life.

Romans 3: 10-12:

“There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”

Lent helps us recall all of our weaknesses and remember just how much we are in need of God’s unconditional grace. We remind ourselves that no matter how much we’ve accomplished, no matter what circumstances surround us, and no matter what lies ahead, we are dust. Our lives are but a shimmer on the screen of the cosmos. We are here and then we aren’t.

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20:

For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.

We must ask ourselves some menacing questions: do our christian values and beliefs align with the way that we are living day to day? Are we maximizing our potential or are we wasting our energy? Are our lives full of hubris and ego, or do we recognize and embrace our lowly estate?

Now this is where answering today’s topic comes in – thinking about these things should inform how we celebrate valentine’s day. 

Are we going to freely spend copious amounts of money on personal pleasure, and then get offended when the beggar we pass by outside the shopping mall asks us for a few dollars for a meal?

Is your valentine’s day celebration of love going to be all about your self-importance?

Valentine’s day is a celebration of love and for a christian, Love is not self-indulgent. the demonstration of love is always a giving action. May we use this season of repentance to refine our rhythms and reform our actions, even on valentine’s day. May the realization that we are but dust help us live our lives as people who measure our time wisely, give our lives freely, and love each other boldly.

The overarching message of lent isn’t just repentance, it is about the deep, deep love of God. Christians never repent, fast or think about our sin just because – we do it as a response to the initiating, grace filled love of GodJoel 2:13 puts it this way:

Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.
Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.    

This Valentine’s; celebrate your love for God through your repentance. Has God been calling you away from something? Use valentine’s day to tear open your heart as you confess and repent. God is a compassionate, full-of-love sort of God.  We lament our lack of love because He is overflowing with it.

I know I won’t be fasting 40 days of Lent or participating in Ash Wednesday, but come Valentine’s day and every day afterwards, I will be setting aside time to consider God’s great show of Love for me through Jesus on the cross.

1 John 4:10:

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We serve a God who is full of unfailing love and each day of Lent can be a sort of valentine’s day – a day not just to be sorrowful but to meditate on how the great love of God pierces our hearts and informs our repentance. Confession and repentance are ways to experience God’s love more deeply, and to be made into the type of person that can extend that love to the world.

Even as a secular, made-up holiday, Valentine’s Day still reminds us to do what many of us often neglect: to treasure our relationships and to show our affection. How about we treasure our relationship with God and show our affection towards Him?

God’s love is personal. He knows each of us individually and loves us personally. His is a mighty love that has no beginning and no end. It is this experiencing of God’s love that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. Why does God love us? It is because of who He is: “God is love” — It is this love that should be the basis of our Lent and Valentine’s day celebrations. We repent because God is love, we show love to others because God is love. Lent is about love.

Grace & Peace!

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