Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fasting

The 40 days leading up to Easter, not counting Sundays, are collectively called Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (this year February 25) and ends the day before Easter (April 11).

Historically, Christians have used Lent to remember the 40 days and nights Jesus was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). So fasting has been the main thing believers do during Lent. Some traditions are more rigid about this than others. Many, like my own, take little or no official notice of Lent at all. Personally, I like the Christian calendar and think it would be good for our church to refer to it more often.

Anyway, when it comes to fasting it's important to remember that there's nothing meritorious about fasting per se. And there's nothing at all evil about food or the enjoyment of it. Fasting is done in order to break our addiction to anything we trust in or depend on instead of Christ. It's a means of teaching ourselves to feed upon Jesus and find our all in him even when we're not fasting. It's a way of saying to food, "Food, I'm kicking you in the FACE! You will NOT take the place of Jesus Christ in my heart!"

Food just happens to be one of many things we turn to for satisfaction, and in finding satisfaction in food we may stop clinging to the Crucified.

It's no accident that Jesus frequently compared himself to food. He called himself the bread of life (John 6:35). He said for us to eat his flesh and drink his blood, figuratively of course (John 6:53). He said that he would give us food that endures to eternal life (John 6:27). Many of his miracles involved food (changing water into wine, feeding the 5,000, feeding the 4,000, etc.). So I think fasting is a great way to remind ourselves that Christ is our true meat and drink.

But there are lots of other things we might abstain from that have as much if not more of a grip on our affections. In fact, I'd say that for some people fasting from food is way too easy.
  • What about cell phone use? Some people are addicted to their mobile phone. It would be quite a step for some of us to leave our cell phone at home for a day. My cell phone is an idol if I use it to rely on other people to give me what only God can supply. I think many people get a rush from continually texting or talking to other people on the phone. It also cheats us out of enjoying silence and solitude.
  • What about answering emails? For me, giving a quick answer to someone's email is often a way to establish my own righteousness. ("Hey, look at me. I'm so on the ball that I answer emails faster than anyone!")
  • And what about Facebook? "How many FB friends do YOU have? Oh, not as many as me, eh? So sorry..." Looking to anything besides Jesus to give us that ultimate sense of value and worth is idolatry! Maybe a way to put that idol in its place is to visit Facebook just (gasp!) once a day or something like that.
The point is, there are lots of things out there that compete with Christ for first place in our hearts. Food is one. What is it for you? Maybe Lent would be a good time to kick that thing in the face.

2 comments:

Randy Greenwald said...

So well done, Mike. I'm stealing this (with credit, of course). Thanks for giving this thought and laying it out so clearly. I'm challenged.

B said...

Thanks for this...words I needed to hear today. Blessings - B.