“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 male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 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.”
Kristen and I are drawing more and more clear lines around Sunday– the culturally accepted Sabbath day.
Our new family rule is:
Church activities on Sunday are limited to the worship service and children’s church only. No meetings. No nothing.
There have been two general reactions to mentioning this new rule on my Facebook profile.
- People who don’t work at a church applaud. They feel the same pressure to get involved with everything at church and want to reclaim Sunday morning as a time of worship-only as well.
- People who work at churches don’t appreciate my sentiment quite the same. (Staff at my church get it.) The over all impression I’ve gotten from church staff is that they wish they could make Sunday a Sabbath for themselves, but they have too much work to do and try to turn either Saturday or Monday as a Sabbath.
Now… let me be fundamentalist for a second.
Under what circumstances is it OK to willfully break the 4th commandment?
None. The principle of Sabbath is just as clear and relevant today as all of the other commandments. It’s not OK to covet my neighbors wife if it grows the congregation, is it? It’s not OK to steal if I do good, is it? It’s not OK to create an idol for the sake of expanding a ministry, is it?
So why is it OK to willfully break the Sabbath by doing a million things on Sunday morning in the name of church?
I don’t think it is. Hence, we’ve drawn a line. (Here is a good time to mention we’re not asking anyone else to do this, it’s our personal conviction.)
This is where the grey area comes in
The command of Sabbath is a trust issue. You work the fields six days a week and you trust God to provide for you and your family on the 7th. Generations of God followers have taken that literally. But we’ve entered into an age where that is seen as a figurative command.
Jesus talked about the Sabbath a few times and he seemed to have a non-legalist perspective on the Sabbath. (See Mark 3:1-6)
In fact, Jesus gave 11 examples of when it was lawful to break the Sabbath. (source)
- Pulling an ox out of a ditch on the Sabbath was permitted.
- Circumcision is permitted on the Sabbath.
- It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.
- The precedent of David and his men eating the shewbread.
- Priests work on the Sabbath and are blameless.
- The ministry of the Messiah is greater than the ministry of the Temple.
- God desires mercy from His people and not sacrifice.
- The son of man is Lord of the Sabbath.
- The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
- It is lawful to lead animals to water on the Sabbath.
- The Father works on the Sabbath.
Back to my house, bring this home
The principle of Sabbath is abundantly clear. All throughout the Old Testament we see that God’s people struggled to maintain the Sabbath (trust issue) and God punished His people as a result. (Numbers 15 is the most extreme example for habitual individual Sabbath breakers, for an en masse examples, just look at the exiles.)
I’m audacious enough to believe that God still cares about the Sabbath. I can’t lead my family to sin by working seven days a week and in turn expect God to bless my family. (Just like I couldn’t expect God to bless me financially if I didn’t manage my money well. Or other areas of clear trust/sin issues. You can’t expect God to bless areas of your life in which you exhibit willful sin.)
As I talk with church leaders– we all treat Sunday morning as our big day. It’s the day we try to cram as much as we possibly could into the service as well as the opportunity people’s attention and presence afforded us. Sunday morning is anything but Sabbath.
And for people in the pews its inborn hypocrisy. We say, “Put God and His ways above the ways of the world.” And yet, by our actions as leaders, we put the ways of the world ahead of the 4th commandment. By our desire to cram as much into Sunday as possible, we exhibit willful disobedience.
Our words say, “Run to the Lord of the Sabbath and He will give you rest.”
Our actions say, “Flee these crazy church people who want to make your Sunday even crazier!”
As I think of the hundreds of staff meetings I’ve attended, planning hundreds of worship services, I want to go back and ask myself this simple question: “Instead of trying to maximize what we can do on Sunday morning, why don’t we talk about how little we can do? What would happen if we modeled Sabbath on Sunday’s by doing the maximum 6 days a week and called our people to a minimalist experience of worship?”
There is another way
This is where our family is headed. We want to trust God with our church life. We trust Him with our money. We trust Him with our children. We trust Him with our marriage. We trust Him for safety, security, and most importantly… our salvation.
So now we’re going to trust Him with our church. We trust that as we turn Sunday into a Sabbath day for our family and willfully skip the busyness our church provides… that God will bless our church.