By Tilope Joyner White
The season of Lent is a time for reflection, repentance, renewal, prayer, and personal sacrifice as we reflectively journey with Jesus from his 40-day fast in the desert, to the cross of Calvary, and ultimately to his glorious resurrection.
In doing this, many Christians choose to mark this 40-day period with prayer and fasting. However, I wonder how many of us take the time to ask God if the fast we have chosen for Lent is one that is acceptable to the Lord? Do we even know the kind of fast God has chosen?
If we read Isaiah 58, it is revealed to us the kind of fasting God has chosen, and that is “to loose the chains of injustice, untie the cords of the yoke, set the oppressed free and break every yoke. Share your food with the hungry, provide shelter to the poor wanderer, clothe the naked, and do not turn away from your own flesh and blood.”
In my opinion, that sounds like more than just foregoing a meal or two. What it sounds like to me is the ministry of Christ and we are called to that same ministry. Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and for 40 nights not just for his benefit, but in preparation for a greater work and our fasting this Lenten season should be no different.
I understand that fasting can be beneficial both spiritually and physically for the person doing it. Yes, I have fasted before and I received clarity from the Lord. I received a word from the Lord. I benefited from my time of fasting. But after being arrested by this text, I now believe God wants my time of fasting and personal sacrifice to go beyond my own personal experience and extend to acts of kindness, justice, generosity and love towards others.
True fasting in this Lenten season is about more than what we don’t eat or what activity we are willing to forego. It is about giving up ourselves to journey with Jesus to the cross. And we cannot journey with Jesus to the cross and not pass by those who are oppressed, those who are bound by the yoke of injustice, those who are hungry, those who need clothes, or those that need a healing touch.
So as you journey with Jesus to the cross if you are one that can go 40 days without eating, take the food you are not eating and give it to someone who is hungry that you meet on the journey. Or maybe you decided that you won’t go shopping and buy any new clothes for the next forty days, take those days to clothe someone on your journey who needs it.
Whatever you do, I challenge you to pray and ask God what is a fast that is acceptable and make sure that your fast reaches beyond yourself. Everything we do as Christians is never just about us. It always points to something greater than us and our fasting should be no different.
Rev. Tilope Joyner White is an ordained deacon in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and serves on the ministerial staff at Washington Chapel CME.