We are in our fourth week of fasting from sundown on Wednesday evening to sundown on Thursday evening. Each week we have been sharing some reasons on why we, as people in the West who have so much food at our disposal, would give it up for periods of time.
New Testament scholar Scot McKnight has a definition of fasting that he roots in the story of Israel. He believes that fasting “is a response to some sacred, grievous moment.”
Ultimately, fasting is a response to something. For Israel, fasting often occurred in the community when something grievous happened because part of what fasting does is it brings us into the grief of God.
And here’s the thing. We do this without recognizing it at times. Think about when a close family member of friend dies. Or when there’s a significant relationship that ends. What’s the last thing we want to do? The last thing we want to do is eat.
So when we obtain from food we often grieve with God.
We’ve seen this as a church over the year. When someone is sick, or there has been tragedy, we call people to fast—to join in on that grief.
This actually happened our first week of fasting together. During our first week practicing this discipline a few things happened in our community. There was a young boy who went into surgery, as well as a couple families in the community grieving over family issues. When we fasted we were able to join them, with a strong reminder that when we fast we don’t always get stuff, but we can join in the grief of God.
So Mcknight puts it best:
“When people tell us they are fasting, we should ask, ‘In response to what?’ instead of, ‘What do you hope you will get out of it?’”