Fasting From Sin, Feasting On Love
“…show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.”
Zechariah 7:9-10 (NIVUK)
Faith at the time of Zechariah was fraught with difficulties. Were there any true believers left? People had lost a sense of urgency and at the same time their religious leaders continued to observe the rituals and customs of the ceremonial laws.
Some of the leaders approached Zechariah with a question: was it necessary to continue fasting on the assigned fast days? There were at least four fast days throughout the religious year. Zechariah’s answer was that when they fasted they just did so for themselves anyway in the same way as when they celebrated the feasts they did so also for themselves. It was all just a show of religion.
What’s more important is to fast from the actions that do not show love to others. Be compassionate. Analyze your relationship with family, friends, strangers and the disadvantaged. Look deep inside at your hearts and don’t let yourself think evil of others. The true fast is to abstain from the sin of hurting others and the true feast is to demonstrate God’s love to others in actions as well as words.
Zechariah’s words resound through the ages to us today. They are as relevant now as they were when he lived. The Hebrew of v.11 suggests that the people had given God “the cold shoulder”. Even though they continued the outward mechanisms of faith as they saw them, they ignored the words of the very God they claimed to worship.
It can be the same for us. We can get so involved in outward religious observances that we don’t see the wood for the trees, so to speak. The Christian life is not about how diligent we are in following rituals and in observing days, it’s about how we relate to others in and through Christ Jesus.
Father, help me to abstain from hurting others and to celebrate Christ’s love for others in all that I do and say. In Jesus’ name.
Study by James Henderson
About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. This Saturday James is speaking at our birmingham congregation. You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations in the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.gracecom.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.