March 2012: Why go without?

As we approach Easter, when Christians commemorate Jesus’ death and resurrection, it is good to reflect on our own lives. In some traditions, Christians deliberately go without something good for this period of the year (called Lent). Such a practice seems strange to modern eyes, so used to the daily injunction to consume, satisfy our desires, and do it now. Yet this practice embodies hidden wisdom, for by making ourselves give up something we like, we exercise inner muscles, and gain inner strength - it is no different from doing physical exercises, really.

Wisdom is different from knowledge - a wise person understands how to apply knowledge well. The Internet today offers incredible amounts of information, but it only becomes useful when it is applied to making a difference for the better in somebody’s life. In some ways, religion is the internet of the past - it preserves accumulated knowledge of how to live well that can be applied to make a difference today. Of course, some have applied it badly, and used it as a means to gain power of other sorts, giving religion a bad reputation; but to dismiss religion because of this is like completely dismissing the Internet because some websites contain malware or obnoxious pictures. Wisdom discerns that some knowledge is harmful, most neutral, some good.

Going without during Lent appears to be harmful (who likes to go without?), but is ultimately good for us - it makes us stronger in our selves, and triggers reflection - How well did I do? Why couldn’t I keep it up? What does this teach me about myself? Or about Jesus?

Such reflection helps us to grow in wisdom in ways that are unavailable in the wider world, and is thoroughly recommended!

Parkdale Church of Christ 2012-18 —A community of faith, hope and compassion.