“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” – Isaiah 58:5-6
I could stop right here and leave this passage to speak for itself. How often do we overthink, over analyze, perhaps even over do the “rituals” or “commands” of our faith? How often are we focused on the aesthetics or whether or not we are acting in the “right way”? When, really, what we see as the thing that God cares about is the way we treat our neighbor. In this passage God does not even mention what we traditionally think of as fasting, He simply implores the reader to speak out against injustice and break the yokes keeping people oppressed and enslaved. It has nothing to do with acting “humble” or performing a ritual correctly. Are you helping to lift the burden of others?
In Matthew 11:30 Jesus says, “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” And then in Mark 12:30 we have Jesus summing up all of the Law and the Prophets with this, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and with all of your strength.” Jesus then finishes with this in Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We make things so complicated and live in anguish analyzing whether or not we are doing what God wants or what his plan is for us. It’s just not that complicated.
Know that you are worthy.
You are enough.
Then spread that knowledge, that love, to everyone you encounter.
Stand up for the weak, give a voice to the voiceless, carry others burdens. I would say that he or she who understands this understands salvation and in fact has it. God desires mercy not sacrifice. This is what it means to die to yourself. This is what it means to live a “Godly” life. This is how we pursue God in our relationships.
And this is not all about literal slaves or people oppressed by systems and governments, although it is certainly that. But we are afflicted and oppressed by many things. We are oppressed by thoughts of inadequacy, we are afflicted by a pursuit of pleasure that will inevitably end in brokenness and hurt. We are oppressed by religion when it tells us we are not good enough, that we are hopeless, broken, or evil at our core. If religion will not make known to us the Truth of our being, then we must find other ways. For we were created good in the image of God, therefore, what is true about God is also true about us. What we believe about God will be evidenced in us.
When we choose to believe that God is Love and Love is for us, all of these things will follow that revelation.