Fasting is as much about dedicating time and energy to activities that refresh the soul as it is about divesting from the facades we have come to rely on in place of the gospel. Discovering how to engage our faith in daily life is best done, as Miroslav Volf writes, when faith is “nourished more on its own intrinsic vision than on the deprecatory stories about others.” Volf, who we read yesterday, continues:
Notice the significance of the new birth for Christian social identity. Christians do not come into their social world from outside seeking either to accommodate to their new home (like second generation immigrants would), shape it in the image of the one they have left behind (like colonizers would), or establish a little haven in the strange new world reminiscent of the old (as resident aliens would). They are not outsiders who either seek to become insiders or maintain strenuously the status of outsiders.
Christians are the insiders who have diverted from their culture by being born again. They are by definition those who are not what they used to be, those who do not live like they used to live. Christian difference is therefore not an insertion of something new into the old from outside, but a bursting out of the new precisely within the proper space of the old.
The question of how to live in a non-Christian environment, then, does not translate simply into the question of whether one adopts or rejects the social practices of the environment. This is the question outsiders ask, who have the luxury of observing a culture from a vantage point that is external to that culture. Christians do not have such a vantage point since they have experienced a new birth as inhabitants of a particular culture. Hence they are in an important sense insiders. As those who are a part of the environment from which they have diverted by having been born again and whose difference is therefore internal to that environment.
Christians ask, “Which beliefs and practices of the culture that is ours must we reject now that our self has been reconstituted by new birth? Which can we retain? What must we reshape to reflect better the values of God’s new creation?”