Living Out the Sabbath With My Family

“Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” 
Exodus 20:8.
image courtesy of kevin via Picasa

I don’t do well keeping the Sabbath. This fact may seem odd, especially considering that I am Jewish. Exodus 20:8 should be a big deal to me; it’s one of the Big 10, after all. And it should at least be a good excuse to spend a day doing nothing. But I’m not good at resting, whether for my sake or for the bigger purpose of worshiping God.

Challenges to Keeping the Sabbath

Maybe part of the problem is trying to figure out how to define the Sabbath. One of the first theological debates that Joanna and I had in our marriage is what day of the week is the Sabbath. Most churches use the term Sabbath as Sunday, whereas the Bible always means Sabbath to be Saturday. I think it’s more accurate to call Sunday “the Lord’s Day.” (By the way, I win about 60% of theological arguments with Joanna; 70% if I get to pick the topic. However, for anything related to practical living, she is right 94.5% of the time.)

And part of the problem is deciding what counts as work. When I played football for Swansea High School, the weight room was open three days a week during the summer – Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. I liked working out on Sundays, because it was typically a day where I didn’t have anything else going on (being a non-Christian, I didn’t even go to church services). I’ll never forget a younger teammate being shocked that I liked working out “on the Sabbath.” But I liked lifting weights and exercising. If I enjoy something, shouldn’t that count as rest?

Another part of the problem is how I can use Scripture to trump Scripture. I pick the verses that best suit my needs. In this case, I use passages like Mark 2:23 – 3:6. Jesus’ disciples gathered food, and He healed a crippled man, all on the Sabbath. The religious leaders looked at this with shock and frustration. I look at this as my excuse to do what I want to. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” See that? The Sabbath can’t control me; I am saved by Jesus, through faith, not by keeping religious rules. Bring on the work!

Obviously, selectively using scripture like this brings confusion to the issue, not clarity. Like Jon Acuff, I tend to flirt with the Sabbath. I might get convicted about it and keep the Sabbath for a short while. But soon, as always, I give up.

Sabbath Is About Worship

I think most Christians, myself included, are missing out on the blessings of the Sabbath. We miss out because we forget that the real issue is to worship and bring glory to Godin all areas of our lives, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The core idea is that I need to be willing to trust God with my time, even a whole day (or more), being willing to not get things done.

And when I return to work, and see how overwhelmed I am with how far behind I got, that is the opportunity to continue to worship, to say to God, “I will not get all this done, but that’s OK. You are the God who provided my salvation. And my position as Your child has nothing to do with what I accomplish today. I thank You for Your love and grace. I will work diligently with all my heart. But I will do this as a response of worship, not out of my need to prove myself to be self-competent, so others will think good things about me.”

A Great Model

He’ll hate me doing this, but I want to brag on my brother. I think he does a great job leading his family in resting on the Lord’s Day. They have certain traditions regarding meals and activities, but what I appreciate most is that I know these aren’t traditions done for the sake of keeping traditions. Their traditions are instruments to help them know, experience, and worship God more fully. Their three boys (including one on the way) are blessed to grow up in this home.

Maybe Something We’ll Try

Now that we have moved to Allendale, this may be a good time to set a new and better course for our family. We have talked about taking Sunday afternoons (or maybe some Saturdays) to do something special as a family. We can rotate who picks what we’ll do, so everyone gets some ownership in this. We might go to a nearby town (like Hampton or Barnwell) for food and shopping, or go a little further away (like Beaufort, Aiken, or even Savannah), or even stay home to play games together. Feel free to keep me accountable to lead my family in this.

Further Reading

To read more about the Sabbath, here are a few resources:Perspectives on the Sabbath: Four Views

This last link has some good closing words:

“We must leave time for slow afternoons, for evening meals where we pray together and share our faith and struggles, for Sunday mornings of shared worship. God ordains Sabbath for our good and for His glory.”

Do you have any other recommended books or links about the Sabbath?

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One response to “Living Out the Sabbath With My Family”

  1. Kelley says :

    “Breathe – Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life” by Kerri Wyatt Kent. Not solely about sabbath, but a good portion of the book.

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