Lent is a time for discipline, for confession, for honesty, not because God is mean or fault-finding or finger-pointing but because he wants us to know the joy of being cleaned out, ready for all the good things he now has in store.
The first day of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar begins early in the morning, before “the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread.” Certain men take to the streets in the wee hours of the morning to perform what they feel is their duty: using loud drums to rouse their Muslim brothers and sisters from sleep and beckon them to eat and drink before the long, grueling day of fasting begins.
After sometimes up to twelve hours of no eating or drinking (or smoking or participating in sexual relations), the dusk call to pray goes off signifying the end of that day’s fast and the beginning of the meal called iftar. I remember riding a nearly empty bus home around dusk last year, halfway through the month of Ramadan. I realized it was empty because the people were already home, seated at their tables, food prepared, anxiously awaiting the muezzin to make his cry from the minarets. The call came as I stepped off the bus and as I walked the few blocks home, I could hear the clatter of forks on plates that drifted through the many open windows.
For Muslims, the month of Ramadan is holy and sacred, a month where they attempt to cleanse their bodies, pray more, read more of the Quran and hopefully gain (or might I say, earn) the blessings needed from Allah to have their sins forgiven and be accepted by him. The month ends in a three-day long feast where families come together, prepare huge meals and offer prayers to Allah asking him to forgive their sins.
In many ways, the season of Lent as a season of repentance and preparation has similarities to the month of Ramadan. Though there are a few stark differences that cannot go unnoticed.
As I approach Lent this year, my hope is to return to the early church’s way of fasting. The early church would fast every Wednesday and every Friday. Scot McKnight says, “Christians fasted on a Wednesday because Jesus suffered the betrayal and they participated in his sufferings; they fasted on Friday as a response to Jesus’ own suffering.” In other words, they fasted to remember the death of Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.
There is our difference. Living in the Muslim world, I have come to view Lent as a season where I am declaring with my whole self – mind, body and spirit – that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the atoning work completed on the cross is, in fact, finished. It is complete. And because it is complete, I can walk in righteousness before the God of the Universe. Because it is complete, I can boldly enter the throne-room in prayer, covered in the blood of Jesus and intimately know my Creator, the God of my life.
For me, Lent is a response to the sacred moments of the week of Passover: Jesus’ betrayal, death, burial and resurrection. The obedience and love of Christ that changed everything, forever.
As I hold sacred these events the next forty days, I prepare my whole self for an epic feast on the resurrection day that is Easter, cherishing my Savior, adoring Him, giving Him glory and thanksgiving. We have this hope as a blessed assurance of our salvation. Compelled by love, we come to God during lent and join the Psalmist in praying, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139: 23-24
Pray for Muslims around the world who do not know what it means to have the assurance of salvation, to know the hope of glory, Christ in us. Pray for these people, created by God in His image, who strive and labor and work to earn their way into heaven. Pray for the cross of Christ to be revealed to them and for the power of the resurrection to be real in their lives. Pray for dreams and visions that turn them to “the way, the truth and the life.” Pray for workers in the Muslim world to have boldness to share their faith in Jesus at every opportunity.
This blog was written by a foreign worker living in the Muslim world. For the sake of this worker’s safety and the safety of the indigenous believers in that place, this worker will remain unnamed.