By Archbishop Emmanuel Egbunu
The yearly liturgical cycle brings us back again to Lent which constrains us to take the slower pace, to listen, to ponder, to be intentional, to look inwards, to watch our ways, and to make necessary amends.
It does not come with the excitement of going for a holiday or picnic. No, it is rather like the preparation for a retreat, where one would open the heart to the light of heaven for that divine illumination that exposes the things that rob us of Heaven’s commendation and, indeed, bring a frown instead. What a privilege to have such an opportunity for redress. And how we all – frail children of dust who are as feeble as frail, need it!
Lent comes as a time to refocus on life’s priorities and purpose through self-evaluation and self-discipline. The Lord Jesus fasted at the start of His public ministry to focus on His reason for coming to earth and to fulfill it without distraction. We follow in His steps.
This first week, we focus attention on a common, yet dangerous attitude that can be costly if not checked: presumption. The presumption in the Christian life is that attitude that makes us set aside the practice of paying diligent attention to God’s standards and instead set our own standards as the rule to live by. It is setting up our own scoreboard or score-sheet, and proclaiming liberty for ourselves on the basis of our own parameters. That done, every other thing is viewed as fanaticism, regardless of how God feels. That way the standard followed by the Lord Jesus and His apostles when they cited, “It is written” or “What does the Scripture say?” is replaced with the age-old ruse, “Did God really, [actually, indeed] say?” (Gen. 3:1). This query of divine injunction is always the gateway to a spiritual crash. Those who do not recognize that this is holy ground are on dangerous ground.
Presumption makes us feel at ease when all is not well; presumption makes us pamper what we should be ruthless with; presumption makes us believe poison is not so bad after all; presumption commends lethargy in our devotion to God which demands reverence and awe. It is the bane of true Christian discipleship in that it seeks to set standards for God to endorse. People who have been raised on sound biblical principles suddenly begin to query their sure foundations in the name of sophistication till they become a ghost of what God meant for them to be. Lives that could make a great impact for God become wasted in the playgrounds of Satan.
A starting point for dealing with this subtle snare is to ask ourselves during this holy season some critical questions: who is this God who I believe in? Am I worshipping a god of my imagination or the God of the Bible who made the universe? Prophet Hosea speaks to our hearts: Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3:
Lent is a time to bring our convictions under the scrutiny of God’s Word and Spirit, knowing that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 16:25). We must examine ourselves to see if we need to move away from our presumptions about who/what we love or hate.