Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On Sabbath Rest and the Pope

We knew it was Sunday when…

            …the scent of bacon, eggs and coffee wafted upstairs
            …Mom awoke us by singing, “Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory!”
            …we slipped into our best clothes and spit-polished shoes
            …all roads led to church
            …we broke bread with friends between services
            …all commerce stopped

Sundays slowed us down and refocused our attention away from our busyness and onto family, friends and God. Sundays reordered our lives with the gift of time. Time to nourish our relationships and enjoy life.

For believers, we called this slowing our Sabbath—a day of rest from creating, working, and doing— as God ordered from the beginning of time:

The God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creation that he had done. Genesis 2:3 NIV

The whole Puritan movement created Blue Laws (or Sunday Laws) attempting to legislate morality by restricting certain “immoral” practices on Sundays, such as gambling, selling alcohol, etc. 

But try as they did, humanity proved (and still proves) that you can’t legislate morality. 

Recently, our local newspaper ran an article that headlined this: Pope: No-work Sundays good, not just for faithful. Pope Francis was “lamenting the abandoning of the traditionally Christian practice of not working on Sundays, saying it has a negative impact on families and friendships…He added, ‘Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves if working on Sundays is true freedom.’”

While I understand and agree that constant work hurts our relationships, I think he missed one important point: freedom comes not by adhering to the Sabbath, but by focusing our heart on our Creator. When we stop and rest we give our minds and hearts room to hear from God and move into the places he wants us to move.

God tried legislating morality and relationship with him through all the Levitical laws. It didn't work. Morality and right relationships could not be controlled by restrictions because God gifted us with free will in a sinful world. Free will + sin = law breakers. 

So why did Jesus, who was sinless, break the Sabbath law by healing a woman? (see Luke 13:14-16)

Because he knew you can’t legislate morality. 

Morality was a heart condition not a condition of forced choices. To him it was more immoral to ignore this woman’s needs and  keeping her bound by the Enemy than healing her and releasing her into whom God created her to be.

While my my childhood memories of Sabbath warm my heart I have to constantly check my motives. Am I keeping the Sabbath out of religious obligation or am I truly resting in order to worship and enjoy my Creator God? And what if part of worshiping God involves unrest—physically working to bring God’s kingdom into a needy situation?

Slowing and worship—a heartfelt refocusing away from busyness and onto God—can happen any day of the week.  And, while I sometimes long for those Blue Laws that "forced" the less hectic pace, I realize that I can’t legislate morality for the masses. I am only responsible for my own heart, my own motives and my own relationship with God, my family and my friends.

How do you feel about taking a regular Sabbath? What does it look like for you? 

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