When Protestants Celebrate Lent

The Winter Olympics have come and gone. There are still three and a half weeks of “winter” before the official beginning of Spring on March 21. What am I supposed to do now? Norway had highest medal count so go Norway! The US men’s curling team won the first gold, beating Sweden. The US has never won one before in curling so go USA! USA! The US women’s hockey team beat Canada in a dramatic shootout, unseating the reigning champions of the last four Olympics. USA!

Enough about the Olympics. It’s still winter and perhaps time to hibernate again?


I think not. And as the title suggest, it’s still Lent. The Lent season began on Valentine’s Day (which is a strange one this year) and Easter Sunday is April 1 (April Fool’s Day – which is also odd).

Here’s the thing: I grew up in a Protestant church – a very conservative Southern Baptist church to be exact. In the Southern Baptist liturgical calendar, it is extremely sparse. Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Lottie Moon Missions Offering Week (first week of December), and Christmas. Just 10 days out of 365. Maundy Thursday is optional, if you even know what that is. Thus when I went away to college, I met Christians from other denominations, and devout Catholics, who do celebrate Lent.

Even then, it’s a stripped down version. Now, if you are a practicing Catholic who do know the full history of Lent and what it symbolizes, please bare with me. The short explanation: in preparation of Good Friday and Easter, it’s a time of reflection and self-denial so that we can become more like the Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is 40 days long, but not counting the weekends. Most people give up red meat but eat fish on Fridays. Ironically, there’s Mardi Gras – the last day of “fun” before we get serious. Again, that’s the short version.

So why am I celebrating Lent? After all, I am a Protestant through and through. There is nothing in my background that says I have to do this. I don’t have to show solidarity with anyone who is. I think in part, it is also a social experiment, especially to see who is doing it and what he or she has decided to give up in this season.


Here are some results:

  • I offered some Thin Mints Girl Scout cookie to my pastor who turns out is giving up chocolate and goodies.
  • A male friend said he is giving up long showers in the morning. Why? To spend more time reading the Bible or praying.
  • The male friend’s wife said she is giving up non-work usage of the Internet.

That was just today.

I am sure I will hear others. Personally, I have yet to give up a food-related item in the past few years when I DID celebrate Lent. Why? Food for me is not an idol. I don’t feel like I have to eat a gourmet three course meal every day, or spend over $50 on sushi, or drive 3 miles out of the way to get a $10 cup of specially roasted coffee from a famous coffee place. It’s not me and it’s not a sacrifice. If you tally up what you spend on expensive food in the first world, and also what you waste, you could feel a village in the Third World. This is not a guilt trip if you do have to have sushi once a week. What you do with your money, it’s up to you, but at the end of the day in the Lent season, what are you willing to give up? It ought to cost you something.

Closer to home for me was entertainment and the Internet. Think about how dependent we are on the Internet for entertainment. Streaming videos like Youtube, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, or social media like Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, etc., or just reading Wikipedia for knowledge. For better or worse, we use the Internet to communicate, perhaps more so than face to face. I work with a lot of software engineers who would rather ping you on Skype or Google Hangouts even if you were sitting right next to them.

And that’s what I gave up: for Lent, I am not watching anything on Amazon Prime Video. I may watch TV, especially the Winter Olympics last week, and the occasional documentary like The Curse of Oak Island, but by and large, I am off.


That’s my sacrifice. Should I have talked about this so publicly on WordPress.com? I don’t know. For some, such acts of self-denial and sacrifice during Lent ought to be private unless someone tempts you in the area where you have denied yourself. During the social experiment, I do rarely see anyone broadcast what they were sacrificing. No one walked around with a sign saying: No chocolates for me. I’m observing Lent.

There are the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 6 where He instructs His disciples against the overly demonstrative acts of piety by the Pharisees. Rather, acts of piety and charity ought to be done in secret, with no fanfare, lest the act becomes one of pride and self-promotion.

On the other hand, it’s not like an underground fight club or a secret society where it’s taboo to speak out. Rather, I think I wrote this post to encourage anyone who IS celebrating Lent. If you are having trouble, if you are faltering in your commitment, just know that what you practice in the body to guide your spirit is extremely invaluable. Know that if you have sacrificed something to honor God, it still honors Him. If you think about, you are imperfect, your will is imperfect, so how can that meet God’s perfect standards but for His grace and love for you?

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