Today is Fat Tuesday if you are in New Orleans or in some places where I have lived it is Paczki Day. It is also known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday in some parts of Europe. This is the day before Ash Wednesday and Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Since many Christians fast during Lent, they have one last fling with the things that will no longer be in their diet for a time. Perhaps it is to get rid of all the excess food before midnight, or perhaps it is just to have one more chance to enjoy food before fasting. I just found it interesting as I have been looking at Paul's writing on suffering for the church that this would be on my mind as we are approaching Lent. Please read Colossians 1:24-25.
The idea of fasting during Lent goes against the consumer and consumption mentality we find in America. Instead of consuming more, many Christians are encouraged to consume less. As I was thinking about this, I realized how well that went with the post I wrote yesterday. Have you thought about what you could let go in order to follow Christ uninhibited? Maybe you could use this season of Lent to give it a try. Try to let go of something that may be taking time away from God. I know that in some churches, people who are participating in some type of fast during Lent are encouraged to use that time to pray and listen to God. Once again, this isn't necessarily suffering for the sake of the Gospel, but we are learning that when we let go of something that is so dear to us we can actually find more freedom in our walk with God.
Continuing on in these verses from yesterday, I want to look at a little phrase that stuck out at me. "For I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for His body, the church." This caught my attention because it was worded very differently in the NIV. I looked it up in the Greek, and found it to be worded different there, and found that the ESV translated it a little closer to the wording from the Greek. "I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church..." It seems confusing, doesn't it? "What is lacking in Christ's afflictions..." What does that mean? Since I am not a Greek scholar, I am not going to even attempt to say I understand this completely. But, I will say this: I do not believe that Paul thought that Christ's suffering and sacrifice was not adequate. Rather, I think that Paul is referring to the fact that we, too are to be willing to sacrifice and even suffer so that others can know about the hope we have in Christ. Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 16:24-25.
Maybe "what is lacking" is the fact that the church is to be following Christ in everything. Instead of being focused on our own preferences and comfort in our churches, maybe we should be thinking about what God is calling the church to do. When we think of it from the perspective of Christ's sufferings, our fast at Lent doesn't seem significant; however, I would disagree. What we practice is what we become. When we begin to practice obedience we become obedient. So, when we practice lacking in something during Lent, we start to become a person who is willing to step away from their comfort as long as our attitude is that of a person who wants to change more like Christ. So, instead of fasting with dread, practice lacking to become more like Christ.
What would God like you to practice lacking?
This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday.