“Let No One Disqualify You”: Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Colossians 2

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“So…What have you given up for Lent?”  You may have spent the last six months thinking about this, or with the overwhelming amount of blog posts and Facebook statuses/tweets concerning the subject, felt pressed yesterday to devise a plan.  You make a half-hearted commitment to give up _______.  “Okay, I really think I’m going to do it this time,” and within 24 hours, you have already dropped the ball.  The thoughts of defeat and lack of dedication to your Savior taunt you in the back of your mind.  Or, you may be like me, and even though you did not think of anything to give up, you feel pressured to do so.  On top of this, leaders of your church along with the coolest members of your church write convincing sales-pitches showing you the benefits (see  previous post) of observing such holy days.

When juggling the desire to be hip, the heart for my Savior, and a lukewarm guilt-trip, God provides a simple phrase for Christians:  “Let no one disqualify you.”  Paul writes in Colossians 2:

v. 16: ” Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.”

v. 18:  “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels…”

v. 20-23: “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations–‘Do not handle, Do no taste, Do not touch (referring to things that all perish as they are used)–according to human precepts and teaching?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

A few thoughts:

  • Christ died to set people free from the guilt and shame of failing to observe extra-biblical rites and rituals.
  • Though Paul isn’t speaking specifically of Lent in this context, the passage, as far as I can tell, certainly applies to our situation.  If certain Old Testament texts concerning ashes support the observance of Ash Wednesday, then Colossians 2 can support a counter-argument.
  • Lenten regulations have an appearance of wisdom.  A convincing blog post or two may lead you to think that your devotion to your Savior is proportionate to your devotion to Lenten regulations.  Though most would not say this outright, it is heavily implied.  “If you really want to observe Jesus’ death, it would be wise to…”
  • Though I don’t grasp the full scope of what Paul is arguing against here, he makes one thing clear:  Wise regulations demanding/strongly recommending asceticism (including ashes on foreheads) and severity to your body (Lenten fasting), have no power in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.  “You can fast from Facebook while feasting on it in your heart.” The Christian identity and substance is in Christ, not wrapped up in days marked on a calendar.

Written by keywoodblog

February 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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