For the past two days I have been reading the book Stumbling into Grace by Lisa Harper. (Thank you Ida for letting me borrow it!) As I was reading today, I had one of those "Ah HA!" moments. Lisa was telling the story of the Pharisee's as they followed Jesus around and tried to set him up by asking him whether or not he could heal on the Sabbath. Jesus in turn told them that if one of their sheep were to fall and hurt themselves on the Sabbath, wouldn't they pick their sheep up and take care of it? He said that surely humans are more important than sheep and therefore God would surely deem it okay to heal someone on the Sabbath.
"At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath." He answered, "Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus." -Matthew 12:1-14
I LOVE that!
Very recently someone made a comment about someone else's decision to fast a certain thing. They commented that fasting was strictly to be about food and not other seemingly unimportant things. This comment really irritated the person it was made toward and I completely understand why! Here is a person deciding to give up something that they feel is a hindrance in their relationship with God. They have decided to focus wholly on God instead of participating in the other activity. Just as they've decided to step out in their decision, here comes legalism rearing it's ugly head! I'm sure this person really and truly thought they were sharing some well-intentioned Bible wisdom but instead it came across as a holier than thou statement and could have truly discouraged the other person from fasting all together.
How often do we as Christians discourage unintentionally? How often do we portray this unattainable goal that we see as Christianity? It's no wonder people don't want anything to do with God! We've painted a picture that is really a set of rules and regulations for people to follow instead of showing them the true heart of God. We've discouraged and beat down others instead of lifting them up and encouraging.
As you continue to fast these next few days, ask God to reveal to you areas of negativity in your life and pray for a heart of encouragement.