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By Jared Noetzel
I don't work at Bread for the World because of its public policy or advocacy mission. Policy matters, and advocacy shapes policy, but in the end that's not what I'm all about. I work at Bread because of my commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because through his death and resurrection we have the opportunity to participate in the reconciliation of the world to God. Part of that reconciliation extends to the ways we choose to order our society. In other words, it extends to politics. The problem is, I forget that order of things too easily.
We're nearing the finale of one of my favorite times of the church year. In Lent, we're called to remember our dependence on God through contrition and repentance. By prayer, fasting, and giving we recognize that God has ultimate control over our lives. Through the adoption of new disciplines, we tangibly remind ourselves to both submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and remember who gave us our salvation. That's how we don't forget to love our neighbors and care for people who are marginalized. That's how we don't forget to love our enemies, even when they target people who are hungry.
Advocacy and politics can be toxic to our souls. We can easily get caught up in the short-term wins and "gotcha" moments. The season of Lent calls us as followers of Christ to a time set apart to dig into our own failures and seek God's grace and mercy.
The disciplines of Lent steel us against the corroding influences of the sometimes brutal political world. As James 1:27 puts it: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." At Bread for the World, we care a lot about orphans and widows — and all others on the margins of society. We can't and we won't stop advocating with them — ever.
But we must not forget the other part of James' warning. Lent opens a space for us to take stock of how the world has corrupted us, to ask for mercy, and then seek restoration.
The point of Lent isn't to remain in an introspective posture. Rather, it's about preparation and being ready for Christ's resurrection. As we look forward to celebrating Easter, take time to ask God to ferret out the places the world has corrupted you. Then, turn your heart to Christ, and get ready to celebrate his resurrection and the power of reconciliation.
As we engage our hearts and minds with the story of God's redemptive work in the world, we declare that ultimate authority lies with God. That's why, at Bread for the World, we value prayer right alongside activism (see Let Us Pray to End Hunger).
In the work of advocacy, we can forget to acknowledge that all authority, including the authority to govern, stems from God. Prayer helps us stay grounded in God's love and undergirds all of our advocacy efforts.
The work of advocacy doesn't stop because of Lent, but Lent does make us better advocates. We write, call, and meet with elected officials not because good policy is an end in and of itself. We do these things because God has called us to love all the people made in God's image. Lent helps us remember that.
Jared Noetzel is a project coordinator at Bread for the World's church relations department.
The season of Lent calls us as followers of Christ to a time set apart to dig into our own failures and seek God's grace and mercy.
By Marlysa D. Gamblin and Kathleen King
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