Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Remember the Sabbath, part 2

(Continued from yesterday's post.)

There was a time when I felt strongly that we should not eat out on Sundays, that this was a violation of Sabbath principles. Now, although we don’t eat out routinely on Sunday, I feel the freedom to do so on occasion, especially if we are doing it with friends so that relational time becomes the focus. One reason I changed my thinking on this was realizing that my desire to rest on the Sabbath by eating at home forced my wife to work on the Sabbath by coming up with something to eat. I do try to balance my Sabbath day with periods of rest, periods of time in personal activities and periods of time with the family and occasionally with friends. Of course participating in worship is a key part of Sabbath as well.

Because I do not want Sabbath-keeping to become legalistic, I’m hesitant to say that there is anything specific that we must or must not do to observe it. Even the idea of never doing anything out of duty or compulsion shouldn’t become for me a law in itself, because there may be times that I find myself in a position where I simply MUST do something on that day. I try to avoid being in that position, but since I am not omnipotent, I cannot guarantee it will never happen. Also, by saying to myself that I will NEVER do a particular activity, I may create greater stress for myself than if I simply did it and got it out of the way. An example of this is taking care of dishes, which Marva Dawn advocates not doing on the Sabbath. I like the idea in principle, but I find that I can relax better if at the end of the day I load up the dishwasher and wash up the remaining dishes. Otherwise they bother me every time I walk by the sink. But I try to allow myself the freedom to do them or ignore them until the morning.

When I first began consciously trying to observe a Sabbath-rest, I found that Sunday evening became a point of stress because I felt the need to get ready for the coming week but at the same time felt the burden of keeping Sabbath. Some friends helped me break this conflict by their example of observing the Sabbath more Hebrew-style: from sundown on Saturday through sundown on Sunday. I like this because it fits with the biblical pattern and because it allows me greater flexibility on Sunday evening if I need it (though I try to maintain the period of rest through Sunday evening when possible.)

Because I want Sabbath-keeping to be a freely-chosen activity, I also try to not impose any expectations on the rest of my family concerning what they should or shouldn’t do with their Sabbath. For example, I would prefer that my children complete all their school work on Friday evening or Saturday and have Sunday free. That was my preferred pattern in school anyway. But I realize that they have different approaches and I want to allow them freedom to do what they feel is right. I do encourage them to observe a day of rest, in part by inviting them to participate with me in various fun activities on Sunday.

Some people may find it necessary to work on Sundays because of their jobs. In such cases, I think it would benefit them to choose another of their days off to observe a Sabbath. I don’t think the specific day of the week is the most important factor. I think it is more important to maintain the principle that God laid down for us: to rest every seventh day and to make it holy to God.

What about you? How do you observe the Sabbath, or do you observe it at all? What principles guide your choice of activities on the Sabbath? Do you think the principle of keeping Sabbath is even applicable in the modern world? Let me know your thoughts and let’s learn and grow together.

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