For most Christians, tomorrow marks the beginning of Lent, a season of repentance, forgiveness and mercy.
This penitential season leads us to the great feast of Easter, when we remember Christ’s resurrection.
So, why start with ashes? From Old Testament times (Esther 4:3, Isaiah 58:3, Jeremiah 6:26, Daniel 9:3), ashes have been a sign of repentance. Jesus spoke of the use of sackcloth and ashes (Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13).
In many Christian denominations, a cross of ashes is marked on the foreheads of all those who come forward on Ash Wednesday. It’s a gentle reminder that life is short, and we are in great need of mercy if we ever want to make it to heaven.
That mercy that we seek isn’t just from God. We need it from others, and we need to readily dispense it ourselves.
So, whether you make it to church tomorrow to get your ashes or not, we can still use the next 40 days for something really great.
If we just spent a bit more time being merciful, our world would be a better place, don’t you think? There are many angry, bitter, and frustrated people walking the streets with us each day. Some of the people reading these words might be included in that group.
But friends, life is short. As Jesus said himself, He didn’t come into the world to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:17).
Let’s use these next forty days to really embrace our need for forgiveness, repentance, and mercy. How that plays out in your own life is up to you. I promise you, however, that if you let those words move you to action, your life will be much improved when Easter comes. So will it be for those around you, and maybe even the world.