Paul insisted that Christians had the right to eat meat that had been prepared in sacrificial rituals to idols. But he also knew that some Christians disagreed. Some believed it was compromise with idolatry. Paul thought they were wrong, but he didn’t simply write off his brothers.
Instead, whenever he talks about food, he emphasizes that love and deference for brothers take priority over his own convictions and preferences. “Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died,” he writes to the Romans, and to the Corinthians he adds, “if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.”
Paul doesn’t address fasting in the same way, but he would, and he would want us to.We are observing the season of Lent, devoting the time before Easter to meditation on the suffering and death of Jesus. You are free to fast, or not fast. What you are not free to do is fast in a way that causes a breach of fellowship with a brother, that causes a brother to sin, that loses a brother.
If a friend invites you to dinner during your fast, go with him. Your brother is more important than your fast. If chocolate is served at dessert, break your chocolate fast; your host or hostess are worth far more than your chocolate-less Lent. Paul would say, “If fasting causes my brother to stumble, I will never fast again.”
Jesus says to fast in secret. To that, Paul would add, Fast in love. Fast in a way that brings blessing rather than grief to a brother who doesn’t fast. To paraphrase Paul, "if because of fasting your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. . . . Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of fasting.”