Lent is a time that we dwells a lot on Sin. It’s a preparation for Easter and celebrating the Resurrection, and so to prepare for this, we must meditate on those things that Resurrection itself addressed. Resurrection was a response to Sin and Death. The more we feel and dwell in the reality of our Sin and Death, the more tangible Resurrection becomes.
This can seem morose, annoying, unnecessary, or not in line with our identity as Christians. Should we do this though it might make us depressed, feel like self-focused navel-gazing, or if it distracts us from much of the rest of our Christian living?
There’s definitely a time and place for it and a degree after which it becomes unhealthy, but more than what this does for/to us or our emotional state, could I offer another reason that it’s good to have times where we bring our focus to our weakness and sinfulness?
God loves it.
Contrary to the way a lot of Christians view God, this is what he says concerning “the wicked” in Ezekiel:
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? (18:23)
As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die (33:11)
God does not delight in our death that results from our sin. He does not long for it to come. What does he long for?
In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to
show you compassion.
For the LORD is God of justice. Blessed are all who
wait for him! (Isa 30)
Later in the Bible, we see Jesus say this really odd thing. After telling a few stories about people experiencing great joy in finding something they lost, Jesus says this:
“there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (15:7)
Did you catch that? There is something in the heart of God that experiences more rejoicing over seeing sinners confess their sins and come to him than if they had never sinned in the first place! (Think of that as it pertains to the whole of God’s redemptive history!)
I think we sometimes fall into thinking that God is “scared” of sin, or that he plays an eternal, cosmic game of “hot lava” where he has to gymnastically climb and bend around the furniture of reason, logic, and reality just so he doesn’t touch the “sin floor”. But the cross and the incarnation shatter this.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Gal3.13)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Cor5.21)
…. looking to Jesus…who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame…(Heb12.2)
In the presence of sin, it seems that God, in Jesus, presses all the more into it. He rises towards it and embraces it, for his own joy.
After looking at all of this, part of me wonders if Lent might be God’s favorite part of the year, and Confession his favorite part of our worship gatherings. (On a related note, in light of this, if your church doesn’t have a time set aside for Confession, why not?)
I wonder if it’s in the face of Sin and Death that God gets to most exercise his “God-ness”; He gets to be who He is for us and be worshiped as such. When we are weak, he is strong; when we are sinful, he is merciful. Just as he does in light of Sin as an entity, he does to Sin in us: he rises towards it, and embraces it, for his own joy.
It’s in this season, and in those moments, where we honestly give name to the things that haunt us and hurt us and offer them to God, that we get to enter into one of the greatest longings and deepest joys of His heart: extending peace to us.
And so maybe you come to Lent and times of Confession in fear, uncertainty, lack of experience, or a little numbness from going through the motions for too long. May I invite you to press all the more into your sin? To meditate on it all the more? To confess it to our Father and his People?
In other words, may I invite you into the deepest joy and longing of our God?
Once again, welcome to Lent.
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? (Ez18.23)
[image credit: “le pardon” by Istvan Sandorfi]