You are working on a project and things get complicated. There are revisions and modifications. The documentation doesn’t keep up with the adjustments. Someone becomes the keeper of the knowledge and the explanations. Then everyone gets in a hurry and doesn’t care to hear the explanations any more, they just want to have the knowledge. And sometimes, the knowledge itself gets shortened, gets condensed, gets convoluted.
And that kind of confusion can happen on one simple project over the course of a few months.
Imagine a much larger project, one spanning millennia. After thousands of team members and hundreds of project managers, such a project can become large, overgrown with rules unrelated to purpose, with practices that are believed to be about something that was never intended. What had been a laser-sharp purpose to change the world has become an hierarchy committed to surviving.
When John’s followers come to Jesus to ask about fasting, they are coming from within the old structure. They even acknowledge this by saying, “we fast and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don’t.” [Matthew 9:14-17]. They are assuming that fasting is the way to show obedience, to be spiritual.
And then Jesus talks about how sometimes you have to push reset on the project, you have to start over, you have to make a new garment or start with a fresh wineskin.
But it isn’t just about the container, about putting new stuff in new containers. Jesus says, “while the Bridegroom is around, you celebrate.”
Don’t decide what God will want and then do that no matter what. Instead, be with God and follow his lead. If he is having a party, then fasting is inappropriate. If he is speaking softly, then waiting and listening is the right thing to do.
Otherwise, everything gets complicated.
First published April 2009.