Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Give it up for Lent... Do I have to?

I love a good ol' fashion fish fry in Wisconsin. Breaded perch and blue gale are my favorite (and sometimes even the filet-o-fish). There are many who participate in Friday's fish for more than the flavorful, delicious taste. From what I've found in my readings historically many Christians have not eaten (warm blooded) meat on Fridays going back to the first century. This was done to honor Jesus who gave his life on Good Friday to pay for the sins of the world. The connection is: don't have the warm blooded animal give its life on Friday to honor Jesus who gave us his. Interestingly, fish who are cold blooded don't count.   

So my question about this fish filled tradition is, should I still feel obligated to give up meat on Friday's during lent? What does God's Word guide me to do?

Here are some key truths to govern your Lent this year:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Ga 5:1) Some early Christians were tempted to attempt to keep laws of the Old Testament in order to feel more certain of their salvation. This verse reminds them and us that Christ kept every law perfectly in our place. We could not be perfect but he was and therefore we have no obligation to keep the laws of God to earn heaven. Far better, we are set free to show our love to God by living according to his laws with a thankful heart. So in eating fish or anything else ask yourself, "What's my motivation?" 
Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Ro 14:6) We are free to serve the Lord in the way we please so long as it doesn't go against a specific command from God's Word. We have no command by God about what to eat or drink during Lent.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. (Ro 14:19–21) In other words, don't force your tradition on anyone if it could cause them to sin against their conscience. 
I think there is some good meaning behind the practice of giving up meat for Fridays or for the whole season of Lent but I know that it is not commanded by God and does not cause him to love me any more than he already does. I will let these truths guide my appetite this year. 


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