Forbidden Topic #3 – Remember the Sabbath and Keep it Holy

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Ok, I know this isn’t in the news like sex or guns are but I do think it is an interesting phenomenon what has happened in our nation just in my lifetime regarding Sundays. Remember when nothing was open on Sunday mornings?  Remember when you could not buy all sorts of goods on Sunday?  Remember when many stores did not open on Sunday?  Our culture has done an about face and more and more, Sundays are like most other days (if not in work, at least in activity).  “Sundays were made for the New York Times!”  “It’s Gameday!”  “See you on the Greens this Sunday!”  Most Sunday mornings easily have more folks at Wal-Mart than at church.

But the surprising thing is not that our culture made an about face on what Sundays are for but rather that the church, by and large, has joined in.  Where is (insert name) today?  “Oh, he/she is at brunch / boy scouts / girl scouts / golfing / camping / fishing / hunting / the jazz fest / the football game / the little league game, etc.” And this isn’t surprising at all.  It is normal.  It isn’t that the church has criticized or even silently resisted the appropriation of the Sabbath.  We largely join in with it with enthusiasm.

Please understand, I am not being legalistic.  Pastors complaining about people doing other things on Sunday sounds like yet another pastor just trying to get folks to come to church.  But that isn’t exactly what the Sabbath is for either.  The Hebrew Bible tells us that we are to keep the Sabbath holy because it marks the day that God rested after creation (probably modeling a little of what we are supposed to do).  Jesus famously reminded the pharisees that we aren’t made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath is made for us.  And, understanding that we live in this 21st century world, more than anyone I advocate for flexibility.  You very much might be required as a part of your job, or having a child who is part of a school, to be somewhere and do something on a Sunday.  Please note that we Christians are inherently flexible regarding the Sabbath because we moved it!  It used to be from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown (that’s when Jesus observed it) but now we have simply said it is Sunday to mark the day of the resurrection. I see nothing wrong with this.

But there is no Biblical warrant for us to spend our Sabbath (whenever we observe it) rushing from place to place, simply replacing one type of busyness with another.  There is no Biblical warrant for us turning the Sabbath Day into the Sabbath hour (or three).  There is no Biblical warrant for us making the Sabbath simply “fun day” for us without any consideration of our Creator and what he has done for us.  I enjoy going to movies, for example.  It is relaxing to me to watch some good movies.  But I can’t exactly call going to a movie marathon holy.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to be distinctive.  We aren’t just to try to blend in with the society around us.  That doesn’t mean we can’t do something fun on Sundays.  I surely hope we all do.  But I do think it is well time that we reclaimed a day of our week as sacred time where we relax, have fun, but also and most importantly intentionally focus ourselves on God.

And talking about this commandment, in church, would move it out of the “forbidden zone” and we can again discuss how we can all make our Sabbaths a little more holy.

What do you think?

Until next time,

Tom

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