What would you do if someone came up to you and said:
“I’ve just murdered someone, I couldn’t help it, it’s unrealistic to think you could go through life without killing people…”
“I’ve just slept with someone who isn’t my husband, I couldn’t not, there was too much temptation and its idealistic to think in this world today you can be sexually faithful…”
“I’ve just stolen this from that shop over there, its ok, all my friends do it…”
“I’m really busy, there’s no way I can take a complete day off this week, I’ve got my job, housework, family to care for, shopping to get done, and general life admin to get on top of.”
I may be wrong, but if you’re anything like me then I suspect the last phrase would shock me far less, and I’d be far quicker to accept it and far less likely to question them on their choice.
However, you may have noticed that all of them are things that the ten commandments ask of us…
Smith and Pattison notice the same thing in their book: Slow Church when they write:
“The only one of the Ten Commandments we publicly brag about breaking is the one about remembering the sabbath and keeping it holy, and yet we are never given any indication (in the OT or NT) that forsaking the sabbath is any more or less justifiable than murder, theft and adultery.”
So why is it that we find it so easy to ignore the fourth commandment? It says:
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m aware that Jesus made exceptions to the Jew’s rules around the Sabbath – and I don’t think we should have legalistic rules that we keep to once a week, that sap the joy out of life. What seems more worrying to me is that, unlike Jesus, we seem to have disregarded the Sabbath almost completely as a realistic practice for our lives.
I did a survey recently about this – and 302 of the people who filled it out were from Sutton Baptist – of those people an encouraging 83% of people said they thought it was “extremely important” to take a whole day off from work each week. The worrying part came when only 27% of these same people said that they manage to stop work for a whole day weekly.
It seems that the problem isn’t that we think it is a bad idea, but that we can’t seem to manage to do it. And so I’ve decided to use a few of these devotionals over the coming weeks to explore this commandment, how it brings life to us and to the world around us, why it is so important right now that we model this alternative way of living – for our own good, but also for society’s sake, and for the building of God’s kingdom. And finally, some ideas of how we can put it into practice – even in our busy world, and how it can be more than idealistic nice idea.
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
The Sabbath isn’t something we are told to slavishly knuckle down and do at all costs – it is a gift to us! When we see it like this – we start to realise that it was a present from God to us, for our well-being, and society’s well-being. But rather than receiving it gratefully, we have, as a society, tended to reject it to the detriment of our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
So, let’s begin by trying to reorient our thinking to be in line with Jesus’ – viewing the Sabbath as a good gift from God.
In my next devotional I’ll look at why it is such a gift to us and the society around us right now…