Is it acceptable to give up giving things up for Lent? As today is the first day of Lent I have seen and heard of many people who are giving up Facebook, chocolate, crisps, TV, and even grumpiness for Lent.
Sometimes I have been told these acts of virtuousness by people who have then asked me what I am giving up, with the expectation that I will be. “Give up coffee,” I was told today. The pressure to conform is strong. But my nonconformist roots are stronger so I will not be giving anything up (although I will try not to be too grumpy) both because Lent is not something nonconformist Christians have gone for as wholeheartedly as the Established Church, and because I don’t like being told to do something. (An interesting observation from a fellow Baptist Minister today was that we make a lot more of Advent than we do of Lent. Hmmm what does that say about us?)
When I was a teenager, and then later as a Youth Minister, I was encouraged / would teach that young people should resist peer pressure: “Just because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t mean you should.” Now there is truth in that when what they are doing is less than godly, but I think there is also an element in which peer pressure is positive.
In church we encourage one another to keep going in the faith. In society, the general peer pressure is to conform to levels of decency and behaviour that tend towards a stable country and well-being.
But how do you discern between good and bad peer pressure? What makes one good and one bad? When is being lent on something to welcome and when is it something to resist?
I think the answer is in Colossians 3 (look it up!). Remember that this letter was written to a group of Christians, not an individual. The negative and positive peer pressure is to be exercised collectively, not on our own!
Be blessed, be a blessing.
See if you can work out why this is a good joke for this season:
A mechanic was removing a cylinder head from a car engine when he spotted a well known heart surgeon in his garage. The surgeon was waiting for the service manager to look at his car.
The mechanic shouted across the garage, “Hey Doc, can I ask you a question?”
The surgeon, a bit surprised, walked over to the mechanic who was working on the car engine. The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands and said, “So doc, look at this engine, I open its heart, take valves out, fix them, put ’em back and when I finish, it works just like new. So how come I get such a small salary and you get the really big bucks, when you and I are doing basically the same work?”
The surgeon paused, smiled and leant over and whispered to the mechanic, “Try doing it with the engine running.”