Over this Lenten period, we will be looking at things we should eschew and things we should embrace. To eschew means to abstain from something, to deliberately avoid doing something. To embrace means to hold something close, to accept something enthusiastically. There are always two sides to a life of faith: things we must let go of in order to receive God’s good gifts. Jesus said, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.’ (Mark 8:34-35)
It’s hard for us to accept this teaching, for it cuts at our selfishness and self-centred approach to life, but Jesus often spoke in radical terms: ‘if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.’ (Matt 18:9) We need to take our spiritual walk seriously and understand that there has to be a letting go of the old as well as an embracing of new attitudes. The writer to the Hebrews said, ‘let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.’ (Heb 12:1) and goes on to urge us to ‘run with perseverance the race marked out for us,2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.’ (Heb 12:1-2) We need to both eschew and embrace if we are to grow spiritually.