Cross thought: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life.
Most of our Muslim friends will be fasting during Ramadan, from 18th June until 17th July in 2015. In Arabic this is called Sawm. Muslims are allowed to eat only from sunset to sunrise during this period.
The Qur’an sura II verses 183-187 say Muslims should fast to “learn self-restraint”.
Muslims believe it was during Ramadan that the Qur’an was sent down from heaven “as a guide to mankind”.
Christian fasting is very different from this.
Our Lord Jesus Christ taught about it in the Bible’s Matthew 6:16-18 and 9:14-17.
Before His public ministry began, and knowing He would be in special conflict with Satan, He practised an unusually long fast Himself, Matthew 4:1-3.
The disciples also fasted before taking major decisions. They listened for God’s voice by fasting, and they tested their conclusions as well , Acts 13:1-3, 14:21-23.
Jesus’ teaching about fasting comes in a section which is all about being seen privately by God, and not being seen publicly by other people, Matthew 6:1, 4, 6, 8.
Christian fasting is between an individual, or sometimes a small group, and their God.
The emphasis is on communion with God in a special way, for a specific purpose.
There is certainly no rushing home around sunset to ‘break the fast’! As we witness in Khartoum!
Matthew 6 also talks about fasting for heavenly reward rather than earthly benefit.
Reward here means that in His heavenly home God will give praise to the person whom He has known closely by their fasting down here on earth, see verses 4, 6, 18.
In Matthew 9:14-17 John the Baptist’s followers questioned why Jesus’ disciples did not fast as they and the Pharisees did. The Pharisees fasted voluntarily twice per week, usually Mondays and Thursdays, see Luke 18:12 and the non-Bible Didache 8:1 (a late first early/second century document claiming to be the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles). This latter suggested Christians fasted Wednesdays and Fridays.
Jesus said, “My followers will fast”. Speculation over days is not helpful. However we must see that our Lord Jesus did say, “then they will fast”, Matthew 9:15, (italics mine). As with many other aspects of personal worship and devotion, our Lord Jesus put a new spirit in and around an old form. He used two examples:
(1) putting new patches on old clothes, and
(2) pouring new wine into new wine skins not old ones, verses 16-17.
It is very sad that many Muslims fast in order to help earn their own salvation.
They believe their good and bad deeds will be counterbalanced on Judgement Day.
We Christians are different here too.
Christians realise we are sinners in the sight of the Most Holy Creator God. We know there is nothing that we can do to make ourselves good enough for God to accept into heaven. So we commit ourselves to THE Saviour, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. The weight of His goodness and glory more than matches our great need. We privately fast as we follow Him in this life. The more we experience life with Him, the more we want to know Him better.