Coming out of Ash Wednesday I fielded a couple of questions about why some Christians observe Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent while others do not. So I thought I’d share my answer more broadly.
Some Christians hold back from Ash Wednesday and Lent because they have seen it practiced as a form of “works righteousness” that functionally denies the clear teaching of Scripture that we are saved by grace alone, not through works (Ephesians 2:8-10). This is a real issue and one we should be careful of, but at the end of the day, the doctrine of salvation by grace alone is “opposed to earning, not effort.”
That means that while we can’t do anything to make God love us any more or any less, we can and should respond to his love. Ash Wednesday and Lent are good opportunities to do that. We can and should—out of gratitude—exert maximum effort to walk with the Lord. The observance of Ash Wednesday and Lent can help us do so. The ashes of Ash Wednesday remind us who and whose we are, and that reminder can and should empower the practice of spiritual disciplines. And that should similarly remind us of who and whose we are and help us turn to and walk with the Lord.
Obviously, I agree with observing Ash Wednesday and Lent, but I do let the concerns guide my observance. I urge you to do the same.