The euphoria of 31st December Watch-night (x-over) Services has come and gone, and Lent is here with us; a period of 40 days of fasting prayers on the church’s annual / yearly calendar. And as the WBL notes, some people have seen this activity as only mechanical, just like the people of Israel in Isaiah 58, and do not receive any spiritual benefits from it; that is really sad because Fasting is, perhaps, the most powerful spiritual discipline of all the Christian disciplines, and to go through it and not benefit must be avoided at all cost!
But do we really have clear objectives for fasting during the period? Do we make the effort to measure / assess the impact or success of it? And most importantly, how can we get to allow the period to have tangible / significant positive social impact through us? These and more will engage our attention in this discussion and the sequel(s) to follow.
Besides the stated observation that some individuals do not benefit from the fasting, I am inclined to believe that society as a whole is not benefiting much from these activities, if at all; otherwise why is it that we have observed these traditions for so long and there is indeed upsurge in religious activities and yet there is no corresponding difference in our lives as a people? Have we considered the likely negative impact on our national productivity / GDP? I think we have taken Isaiah 58 (and also Matthew 5:13-16, Ephesians 2:10, and 1 Timothy 4:12-13) too lightly. In Ghana in particular, where Christians alone constitute about 70 percent of the population (and Africa in general) the following problems / issues have persisted over several years on…
- Our reading and writing habit / attitude and especially appreciation / application of scripture are hardly improved.
- Productivity among us is still so low (as our GDP shows).
- Our work ethics / attitude is no different from that of unbelievers; appalling.
- Unemployment and underemployment have gotten worse.
- Poverty abounds; actually stares us in the face.
- Our economy is still predominantly in the hands of foreigners or otherwise import-driven and weakening the Ghana Cedi and the likes.
- Our environment has gotten destroyed even more.
- Filth is all over.
- We are even more self-centred than ever; we hardly put our collective interests above personal interests.
And the list goes on! A case of activity without productivity, following from just maintaining the status-quo, or applying spiritual solutions to non-spiritual issues? Much like taking paracetamol tablets in a bid to deal with hunger. Do we even care to understand the issues at stake? Or is it that the impact is supposed to be only inside of us without a corresponding outward manifestation of any such internal transformation? I don’t think so, because as per today’s passage, God ignored their fast because they ignored the required practical living expected of children of God. I believe that when we ignore the practical things that are required of us and suppose that fasting would do some magic, we might just be attempting to ‘twist God’s hand,’ and it is not likely to work.
I suggest that we should make some declarations: that, we are not just going to go through another religious tradition to satisfy the calendar; that we are prepared to allow ourselves to be transformed significantly by this year’s Lent; for significant social impact! Amen!!!