Remember the Sabbath Day and Treat It As Holy Devotional
"Remember the Sabbath Day and treat it as holy." - Exodus 20:8
Perhaps more than any of the ten, the fourth commandment regarding keeping the Sabbath causes me the most feelings of inadequacy and guilt.
So far so good. I feel pretty confident that I can swing that one.
Despite the time I stole a roll of Tums from Safeway mistaking them for Life Savers when I was five years old, I've got a pretty good track record there as well.
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it as holy?
Yikes. Actually, I don't think I'm alone in my sense of failure on this one. I would bet if I took a poll of my Christian friends, there would be very few who don't feel some sense of shame around the ways we are "getting it wrong" in regard to keeping the Sabbath.
Our problem, I think, is exactly that idea of a wrong way to Sabbath and a right way. If we look at keeping the Sabbath as a duty that we have to perform perfectly, we miss out on the gift that it is meant to be. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus reminds us, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27). The Sabbath is intended to free us, not to confine us.
Because of our frustration over "getting it right", many of us find it easier to dismiss this commandment as one of lesser importance. Some put it in a category of Biblical ideas that simply don't apply in the modern world anymore. Perhaps it's because intentional rest seems impossible in a culture where "busyness" is practically considered a virtue.
However, I think it's pretty clear that resting is important to God. In fact, we barely get into the 2nd chapter of the entire Bible when He mentions it. Verses 2-3 read "On the sixth day God finished all the work that He had done, and on the seventh day, God rested from all the work that He had done." If it's good enough for God, I think it's good enough for us. Furthermore, modern science actually backs Him up. Countless studies point to the positive benefits of rest from improved mental and physical health to enhanced creativity and productivity. We know God is good. We know He wants good for us. If He wants us to rest, then we can be assured it's important.
Another reason we might feel guilty about this commandment is because we have convinced ourselves that there is a particular way to practice Sabbath. I would contend that the ways we practice Sabbath don't need to fall in line with some arbitrary set of rules. The word "practice" means just that. We might not ever get it exactly right, but we can keep trying; expecting that the ways we meet God in rest will change and adapt in different seasons of our lives.
Our Sabbath practice might look different from someone else's does - just as I might like to jog for exercise and you might like to bike. Perhaps this season in your life doesn't lend itself to a 24-hour period of rest. (Hello, Parents of Toddlers! Can I get an "Amen"?) Perhaps your Sabbath time is sitting outside a coffee shop on a Wednesday morning for an hour when your children are at pre-school. Perhaps it's going for a walk at the same time each week before you turn on that phone. For me, Sabbath is a time to connect to God and to rest in His love and His grace. As far as I can tell He's not boxed in to a particular day, time, or place.
I think perhaps "Sabbath" needs a rebranding. It's not a set of rules and boxes to check. It's not yet another performance we have to perfect to prove our devotion. It's not an obligation, but an offering. Not a rule, but a reward. Not a hinderance, but a healing.
This week, might we take a fresh look at this commandment. If we commit to giving ourselves the grace and freedom to practice Sabbath, not to perfect it, I think we'll find the holy rest that God intended us to have in Him. Every good and perfect gift comes from above – not to burden, but to help. Let's open the gift of the Sabbath. It's made for us.