In case you hadn’t noticed, we are now in the Muslim month of Ramadan.A fact which is hard for me to miss, living in East London, in one of the most diverse boroughs in the country. All over the world Muslims are currently fasting. From sunrise to sunset. Everyday.
And they take it seriously. I remember, when I was in secondary school, after having to run cross country in PE, one of my friends momentarily forgot that she was fasting and gulped down some water from the fountain. She had to repeat her fast later on in the year.
Even kids are excited to be involved in it. The school where I currently work actually had to send out letters saying that children, other than the ones in year six, are not allowed to fast in school, due to health and safety.
And I think there is a lot, as Christians, we can learn from Muslims during this month. After all if they can fast for their God during the hours of daylight (which by the way, at the moment, is between 4:45 am and 9:15 pm) then why can’t we do this for our God? If we truly believe he is the one true God, why wouldn’t we want to do this for him?. Why does it look like we don’t take our faith as seriously as they do?
In the bible fasting isn’t an option, it’s an expectation. Matthew 6:16 states:
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full
Notice, Jesus doesn’t say if you fast but when you fast. It is something he has always expected us to do.
So why do so many Christians not fast. Why don’t I fast?
I know that I should. I know that it will draw me closer to God, I know that it is an important spiritual discipline. But yet, I don’t take it as seriously as prayer, or bible reading, or going to church.
And that plain and simple isn’t right. It’s something I need to address. Who cares if my stomach rumbles and embarrasses me, fasting is something that is expected. After all if Muslims can do it, why can’t we?
Don’t get me wrong, I am so, so, unbelievably thankful that we live under grace and not law. I am thankful that the bible doesn’t tell me when or how, precisely, we should fast. (Although sometimes I think that would make doing it easier!) I am thankful that if I attempt to fast and mess it up I won’t have to repeat it like my thirteen year old friend did. And most of all, I am thankful that I don’t have to fast to earn my salvation.
But really, if we love God, we should want to do this for him. We should want to deny ourself earthly things so we can better understand heavenly things. We should want to know what hunger is so we can more deeply hunger for God, and understand the hunger that thousands around the world face.
We should be as excited about fasting as the seven year olds in my class are, because a lot of them cant wait to be old enough to join their parents in this.
If you are interested in reading more about the Christian view on fasting, I highly recommend reading Richard Foster’s book A Celebration of Discipline.