Wednesday, January 23, 2013

thoughts about the Sabbath: everyone's a hypocrite

I reflect on the ten commandments from time to time.  Lately I've been thinking about this one as reads in the Old Testament in Exodus 20:8-11:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Most Christians believe this commandment is not obligatory now, but there are certain denominations that dictate the kind and amount of activities to be done on the Sabbath day.  Some even excommunicate people who don't behave accordingly which I think is unloving and tragic.  You can read my thoughts about excommunication here.

I believe resting on the Sabbath during Old Testament times was a sign of the covenant God had with Israel.  It was a small taste of the salvation in Christ that would be coming.  Then through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the law was cancelled.  The old covenant transformed into a new one for everybody in the world.
... God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  Colossians 2:14

I think the Biblical law serves to remind us we're sinful.  It also helps us steer clear of danger, pain, and uselessness.  But I don't need to worry about measuring up to it seeing as though Jesus has taken it off my shoulders.

So when I look at this particular commandment, remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, I reflect on what holiness means and where it comes from.  Holiness is not about my external observance such as wearing my best clothes or avoiding shopping.  Instead, it is about my heart.  Refraining from doing laundry or going to a restaurant on a Sunday does nothing to sanctify me (though I'm free to behave that way if I want).

Well then, what makes me holy?  Being occupied with God's Word.  I believe reading and hearing Scripture is delightful to God and more beneficial than any work of hypocrisy, however brilliant.  Let's face it, some observances simply cannot ever be kept without sin.  I've noticed that the people who fuss about how terrible it is to go to a restaurant on a Sunday are the very same ones who have no qualms about watching a live news broadcast or preparing a meal and doing dishes (it requires work, does it not?).

I think a day dedicated to rules rather than a celebration of life—of Christ—becomes a hollow day, restrictive and void of joy.  That's depressing.  I'd rather spend the day in love and freedom with my faith community, rejoicing in the Word, especially when I know I have a weakness for turning morality into an idol.

When I notice church getting burdensome or depressing, I know it's time for me to examine myself to see if I might be taking on a yoke of slavery (whether it be a slavery to other people or tradition or whatever).  This is what I keep returning to: Jesus, who is my Sabbath.  I can rest in him whenever I want and I pray that, more and more, I experience the joy of freedom from the trappings of this world.

You are, of course, free to desist from work or restaurants or shopping on Sundays.  I don't think it makes you any worse than I am.  But please don't judge me or treat me like I'm less of a person if all I want to do is rest in Jesus and be joyful in community.  I'd rather do that on a Sunday—or any day—rather than stress about a bunch of rules that aren't going to save me anyway and only serve to make me more of a hypocrite than I already am.

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