It’s Not What We Give-Up, But What We Get – By Dr. John C. O’Keefe

by Christine Sine

Today’s contribution to the series Easter is Coming: What Do We Hunger & Thirst For is by Dr. John C. O’Keefe. His dynamic blog can be found here. This post is a several-part series he is writing on Lent.

Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

 How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.[1]

We think of Lent as a time of giving something up – of fasting – of removing something from our lives, something we see as “sinful.” But I am not sure we should be focusing on what we are giving-up, but rather we should be focusing on that we get. Lent is a time of reflection, a time when we look deep into who we are as Followers of Christ and how we look at others.

What I find interesting is that when people share with me what they are “giving-up” during Lent, it is always something that will make us look better to others – we give-up TV, sugar, smoking, eating meat, chocolate, coffee (not all coffee, just that fifth cup), or bread – but the funny this is that we almost always just given them up for Lent. As soon as Lent is over, we find ourselves sitting around the living room watching all the shows we tevo’d during Lent, smoking a 55 gage Dominican Murdoro cigar while chopping on our chocolate covered meat sandwiches and washing it down with a gallon of espresso. In reality, after Lent nothing changes. Why? Because we hate giving things up.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians we see something very different way of dealing with Lent – one that tells us that it is our change on the inside that matters, not what we show the world we gave-up. While we are impressed with people who wear their Lenten Give-Ups as a red badge of courage, we should be more impressed with those who say, “For Lent, I am inviting God, through Christ, to change my heart’ to change who I am as a person and make me a better follower.”

It is not what we give-up during Lent that matters, but what we get from Lent that counts the most. Lent is not a time to change from the outside, but embrace Paul’s words, “that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new.”


Over this Lenten season I will be posting different reflections-keep checking back.

[1] 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 The Message (MSG)

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