The Challenge of Ramadan

Ramadan began yesterday.

Perhaps you think Ramadan is just another way to earn God’s approval which Muslims need gospel freedom from.

But let me just say something - I realise it may not sit easy with some.

Christians, particularly in the West, have something to learn from our Muslim friends here.

What Islam gets right

If our issue is with fasting being a dead, religious work, we’re at odds with Jesus. To Christians, he didn’t say ‘if’. He said ‘when you fast’ (Matthew 6:16).

He assumed we’d fast regularly. Like Muslims do.

Muslim and Christian fasting have some overlap. We express our dependence on God. We pray prayers of dissatisfaction at our own spiritual poverty.

What Islam gets wrong

However, there are also eternity-changing differences.

Muslims fast to ‘cleanse the soul,’ requesting forgiveness of past sins; Christians are completely cleansed by the blood of Christ. Our sins were nailed Christ’s cross (Colossians 2:14).

Muslims fast alongside good deeds, hoping that they’ll earn eternal life; Christians already have eternal life in Christ (1 Peter 1:3-4).

Indeed, Christians fast because we have eternal life. David Mathis says:

We don’t have to get it all here and now, because we have a promise that we will have it all in the coming age. We fast from what we can see and taste, because we have tasted and seen the goodness of the invisible and infinite God — and are desperately hungry for more of him.

The Challenge

Ramadan imitates a Christ-less Christianity – a good thing to do but with wrong motivations to do it.

To which we all nod.

But the real challenge comes from Jesus. “The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:15)

Will we?

If Ramadan is a Christ-less imitation, do we Christians do the real thing?