“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” - Galatians 5:24
In the early 400s AD in the city of Hippo, Augustine gave a sermon on the first Sunday in Lent. He focused on Scripture passages which speak of Christians being crucified or presented as a sacrifice like Christ (Galatians 5:24, Romans 12:1, Galatians 6:14). This emphasis elucidates the fact that these are commands to the Christian at all times, not just Lent. Augustine says, “Live here like that always, Christian; if you don’t want your footsteps to sink in the earthly quagmire, don’t come down from this cross.”
Lent is a unique time to reflect on one’s manner of living and seek to put to death the deeds of the flesh in a new way, but Augustine observes something important. The Christian should at all times be seeking to put to death the selfish and sinful desires; it is a dangerous thing if Lent veers into legalism where one gives up sinful practices for a period of time in order to feel justified for continuing those practices the other 325 days of the year. Any sinful desire that is abandoned at Lent should be abandoned entirely in the Christian’s life.
Of course, this is not to say that Lent is useless. The value of Lent comes from giving up a good thing in order to attain deeper intimacy with Christ. Like fasting where food is given up to focus on spiritual nourishment for a defined period of time, Lent is an opportunity to forgo some positive thing and thereby know Christ more fully.
Lord, reveal to us in this season the passions of the flesh that wage war against the work of the Spirit. Help us to put those deeds to death and to set our minds on the things of the Spirit.
Passage for Further Reading:
About the Author:
Andrew Warren is a senior at Vanderbilt majoring in Economics and History. Other than Synesis, he is involved in Navigators and BYX and works at the university library.