Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Faith Works 4-28

Faith Works 4-28-12

Jeff Gill


Justice is rarely fast, but doesn't have to be slow




Some of the feedback from last week, when I wrote about fasting as a spiritual discipline, asked about health and safety matters.


My observations were entirely based on my own practice of a one-day a week fast from solid foods, but including juices (while I keep away from dairy, again, just my own personal definition). In other words, not eating "stuff" but including milkshakes and milk and pop as stuff. Me, I like V8 Spicy Hot, plus a little cranberry juice and lots (and lots) of coffee, but YMMV.


Anyhow, the whole "fast for a week" or even more (check out Bill Bright and fasting online for where this idea comes from in recent days) is not what I'm proposing, and I'm not even saying I think everyone should skip a day to tune up their prayer life: I'm just reporting what's working for me, and where I trace the precedents for this practice in church history.


If you are diabetic or have other health issues, you probably shouldn't even do this much, and it's something you should check with your doctor or health professional especially if you're on medications or have other complicating factors.


But for those who ask if any fasting is "Biblical," my answer is actually that I'm appreciating Biblical perspectives, but in no way do I think the Bible calls on us to follow a particular diet, or lack thereof, for holiness. Fasting is Biblical the same way flying is Biblical: it's in there, but I don't think God's telling everyone to do what the swallows do.


In fact, there's one very specific Biblical comment on fasting, and it comes in always applicable Isaiah, in chapter 58, starting at verse 6.


            "Is not this the fast that I choose:

                        to loose the bonds of wickedness,

                        to undo the straps of the yoke,

            to let the oppressed go free,

                        and to break every yoke?

            Is it not to share your bread with the hungry

                        and bring the homeless poor into your house;

            when you see the naked, to cover him,

                        and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

            Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,

                        and your healing shall spring up speedily;

            your righteousness shall go before you;

                        the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

            Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;

                        you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'

(Isaiah 58:6-9 ESV)


How I read this is that fasting is not about giving something up for the sake of proving something to yourself, let alone to God. Fasting, denying yourself an indulgence or even on occasion a need, should have a purpose, and that purpose should bend towards providing for those without. It isn't about being some spiritual asetic as a personal achievement, but giving up some bread AS PART of making sure someone who has no bread gets some.


            Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;

                        you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'

            If you take away the yoke from your midst,

                        the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

            if you pour yourself out for the hungry

                        and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

            then shall your light rise in the darkness

                        and your gloom be as the noonday.

            And the LORD will guide you continually

                        and satisfy your desire in scorched places

                        and make your bones strong;

            and you shall be like a watered garden,

                        like a spring of water,

                        whose waters do not fail.

            And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

                        you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

            you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

                        the restorer of streets to dwell in.

(Isaiah 58:9-12 ESV)


When you get to know what the source of life is, it can begin with learning that it isn't inside a bottle of pop or a bag of chips, but it doesn't end there. You go on to find the spring "whose waters do not fail."


And then you lead others to find refreshment there, too.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him your tale at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.