“For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgressing and denying the Lord, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.” Isaiah 59:12-13
I participated in Lent for the first time this year. It is not a tradition of my church, but I’ve known many friends from other denominations who “give up” something for Lent. Although the tradition has never held a special meaning for me, there has always been a part of me that somehow felt left out because my family didn’t participate. Of course, there is another part of me that takes pride in being different from so many other Christians in this respect. So this year I compromised. I decided to give up something for Lent that was different from what anyone else gave up. I gave up Netflix.
Ok . . . maybe it wasn’t the most creative choice I could have come up with, but it was a sacrifice for me. And if Lent is all about putting distractions aside to focus on Jesus’ sacrifice, it just made sense. What I learned surprised me.
Not being able to watch my favorite shows on Netflix turned out to be a easier than I thought. After the first couple of weeks, I found that I hardly missed it, and I was able to spend more time with God and with other people. I actually started to think that this change was making me holier. But then Holy Week arrived, and I realized just how unprepared I was. I hadn’t changed in that 40 days. I was still the same stubborn, rebellious man I had always been.
And it hit me that no matter what I give up, I will be just as unholy and undeserving of God’s love as ever. And that’s ok because Jesus didn’t die for those who deserved him; he died for those who needed him. And that’s why I’m going to celebrate his resurrection tomorrow. Not because I’m a good person but because Jesus loved me and because his death mended the rift I caused by my sin.
That is the meaning of the cross and of the empty tomb. That while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And by his death he opened the door for us to enter freely into the presence of God. I can find no better words than the famous verse John 3:16: “For God so loved the worlds, he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”