Ashes & Judgment

“God formed man from the dust of the ground,” Genesis tells us. But don’t stop there! The remainder of the text speaks to the nature of humanity. “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7)
The 40 Days of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (February 14) for millions of Christians all over the world. I impose ashes in the sign of the cross upon the foreheads of my flock. It’s a meaningful and humbling service to mark the beginning of Lent. Then the next six weeks are a season for looking inward at ourselves and outward at Christ. It’s all about letting of things that are destructive and sinful and embracing the way of Jesus.
While Ash Wednesday is a sobering jolt, it is not a time for wallowing in guilt and despair! We are created beings—dust returning to dust—but we are more than these bodies! God has given us the breath of life. Within our flesh and bones we have a powerful capacity to serve the world as God’s people.
God knows what we are—sinners, rebellious children of dust. Yet God chooses to breathe into us a life that gives birth to new possibilities. God does not give up on us. And consequently we have no reason to give up on ourselves.
So, Lent is a season that reminds us to repent and get our lives centered, our priorities straight, and our hearts clean.
Traditionally many Christians “give up” something for Lent—maybe their favorite food, or smoking, or caffeine. But I suggest that we give up something collectively for Lent. Let’s give up, not something that we can measure on the scales, but something that we can measure in our attitude and words.
I suggest that we all covenant together to give up a judgmental spirit. That’s right. Give up judging others. Jesus said, “Don’t judge unless you want to be judged.” Yet we do it all the time! Everyone does.
Honestly, it would be easier to give up chocolate or fast food. But why not give up something that might make a lasting difference in our lives, in our church, and maybe in our world.
Just don’t participate in judging others. When you catch yourself falling into that familiar speech or thought pattern, ask God to help. Covenant with someone else and then you can help each other.
It’s just one thing, but it’s no small thing. We get rid of things that are sinful and destructive so that we can become more like the people God wants us to be.
This holy season called Lent offers us a new chance to say “yes” to our neighbor, and “yes” to our Creator—the One who made us in his own image, the One who loves us with a relentless love made perfectly clear in the person of Christ on the Cross.