Every year, as we approach the season of Easter, there is a debate that rages in the shadows hand in the hearts of Christians on whether lent is, especially for the born again Christians, a practice that should still be observed. The practices of the church (and I use the word church here to mean a body of believers, as well as an institution that believers ascribe too), whether born again or denominational - like catholic and Protestant- are drawn from four main source. And yet even with these four, it will almost always be two major ones dictating the majority . These sources are: reason, tradition, bible and experience. For example, the Catholic Church will draw a lot of its practices from Tradition and experience; the Anglican Church has drawn a lot of its practices from tradition and reason; the Baptist church will often draw a lot of its practices from Bible and reason, while the Pentecostal church will more often draw its practices from experience and bible. We should therefore recognize that a lot of our approach to christian practices are biased by the church background from which we come from, even though, most if not all Christians will claim an attachment to the scriptures of the Bible.
Therefore, in answering whether the lent season is for Born Again Christians too, we should understand that the answer will be biased by our source of theological practice.
that withstanding, its also important to understand the history of lent. Before we dismiss lent as being for the other “religious” people, we need to consider how it came about.
Traces of fasting in the period leading to Easter have been traced as far back as the 2nd century, the pre-Nicean period. When ever the period around Jesus' death came around, it always was a somber time for the disciples remembering all that Jesus went through in his sufferings and death for our sake. The disciples (now apostles), would recall how he kept warning them but yet they did not get what he was talking about. They recalled how they had deserted him at his hour of need. They then committed to a time of reflection and soul searching to never take the suffering and death of Christ for granted again.
It is important to notice that, at this time, the church was not yet divided into the factions of Catholic, protest, Pentecostal, etc. It was the one church of Christ, albeit, riddled with many controversies. Lent is also not necessarily the construct of the catholic, Protestant or “high church” denominations but rather has its roots in the history and tradition of the church. In A.D 325, it was one of the issues debated during the council of Nicea. They tried to establish a universal Easter date which up to this point various christian factions celebrated the resurrection on different dates.
After this Athanasius seems to be the first one to argue for a 40 day pre-Easter fast. This also was around the period of the legalization and institutionalisation of Christianity by Constantine Understanding this, for me, the more pertinent question is whether this is a biblical prescription or a simply a church prescription. The danger of systematizing and regulating christian practice is that it becomes more about the form and the practices itself than the heart and purpose of the practice. And that is what institutionalized religion ends up being. A lot of the break aways from mainstream is normally a resistance to empty religion that has forms but lacks power. However, those who run away from the mainstream also run the danger of throwing away the baby with the birth water.
Bringing us to the more important discussion, the why. The Christ follower has to always resist any practice that is all about just the form but lack in power. Yet at the same time, the Christ follower has to be careful that they are not resisting just for resistance sake. There is usually refreshing waters underneath ancient wells. The idea of taking off an extended time before Easter to reflect, discern, pray and prepare for celebrating the death and resurrection of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, even through fasting or abstinence, is a great and noble one. It has the potential for deeper spiritual experience and discernment. However, just as any other spiritual discipline, to undertake lent simply as a practice of dogma, becomes pointless and empty religiosity.