Giving Up or Giving In?

Americans do not like giving up. Or surrendering. Or anything to do with defeat in general. We love the line, “Never Surrender, Never Retreat!” A quick Google search will yield a whole host of stuff emblazoned with that slogan. Movie heroes quote some form of the line before the climatic battle.

Interesting note, “I shall never surrender or retreat.” was originally a line penned by William Buck Travis to his wife in a letter before the Battle of the Alamo. The fight didn’t go so well for Col. Travis, but the defeat sparked a revolution that created the Republic of Texas.

Legend has it that Winston Churchill once gave a ridiculously brief speech during WW2. Supposedly, he got up and simply said, Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never give in.” and then sat down to thunderous applause. But the truth is not quite as dramatic. The quote is from a longer speech he gave to a school he attended as a boy. In part it reads,

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Americans feel a kinship with this kind of sentiment. We’re a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps sort of people. Rugged individualism is threaded throughout our collective psychology, thanks to Whitman, Thoreau, and Twain. Whether its Rocky Balboa or the 1980 Men’s Olympic Hockey Team, we devour stories of the underdog or the person who doesn’t quit. Love him or hate him, no one can deny the accomplishment of Tom Brady and his New England Patriots in the last Super Bowl. There is just something truly attractive about that kind of grit and determination.

And here we are starting the season of Lent.

Traditionally, this is a time reserved for fasting and prayer. Yesterday was “Fat Tuesday” in New Orleans. Those of the Catholic faith treat this section of the Church calendar with a great deal of respect, so they throw a massive party prior to the somber season. In some parts of the world, its called Carnival - from the Latin carne vale, or “farewell to flesh.” Perhaps the intent is to get all the fleshly-desires out of their system for the next 40 days. Even in the Protestant church, we give up chocolate or something that we enjoy to (I suppose) identify with the suffering Christ. 

I get it. I understand that practice. I’ve participated myself. But I have to admit, this tradition seems off to me. Or maybe misplaced.

Jesus did indeed suffer and die at the hands of humanity. And he did indeed do that for our salvation. It would be foolish to ignore or deny that. But is his death supposed to inspire us to… suffer?

In a letter to a group of Christians in Galatia (modern day Turkey), Paul wrote:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. [Galatians 5v1]

So maybe THIS Lenten season, we could avoid giving in to the lies that enslave us. Things like discontent or busyness. Maybe those are the very things we should be giving up. Thrive Church is beginning a new series this weekend, where we tackle giving up the habits and hang-ups that keep us from being the kind of free people Jesus came to help us become. 

I hope that you will join us in giving up, but not giving in.