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Long Beach, CA

Sabbath: Beyond Legalism (Sabbath IX)

When I facilitated a conversation around Sabbath in my discipleship group, one of the reactions was, “An entire day of rest? What? How can we do that?” In this crazy modern world, apparently none of us has time for an entire day of rest.

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way: we aren’t under the Law of Moses, so Sabbath isn’t necessarily about setting aside a twenty-four hour period (though I think it’s hard to regularlyget into deep delight with less time than that). My response to the twenty-four hour naysayers was, “Well, do you have any time set aside for rest and delight?” The answers were only slightly more affirmative.

So, because we are apparently well-versed in avoiding Sabbath, here are a few practical ideas for making Sabbath stick:

First of all, it doesn’t matter if it’s a Saturday or Sunday or Wednesday—we aren’t under those old regulations—but it’s vital to have a time set aside for stepping out of all the worries and concerns and work of everyday life. Do you have a time dedicated to enjoying the world and connecting with God’s goodness? If not, will you respond to the words of Scripture not as some rule you have to keep, but rather as the response to a Father who has rest for you and who wants to connect with you? The point is to create a regular, dedicated time for rest. And okay, if you can’t make twenty-four hours work, think about what you canmake work. A start is better than nothing. Start small, but be committed. 

At the same time—while being pragmatic and refraining from rigidity—it’s important to maintain and pursue the ideal, which is a regular weekly period of twenty-four hours. There’s something about living through a circadian cycle of night and daybreak, morning and midday, afternoon and evening. The reality is that if we can’t make consistent space for a twenty-four hour period of rest and delight, we are probably too busy. 

My wife and I take Sabbath very seriously. It’s a commitment. It’s a part of our weekly worship of God and our celebration of life, even—and especially—in the midst of trying seasons. We take Thursday evening and all day Friday as a Sabbath time of rest and delight, and we honor it. We slip into a space like a walled-off garden where, as much as is possible, we don’t talk about work. We don’t talk about life’s normal stressors (unless not talking about them would be more stressful). We dream together. We talk about where we’d like to travel or visit or how we want our family life to be. We talk about who we want to spend time with. We talk about what’s been happening beneath the surface in our hearts and souls. We have good coffee. We worship our God and celebrate that Heis the Sabbath rest. We thank Him. And invariably, we leave this time not without troubles, not without stressors knocking on our doors, but somehow refreshed and able to take on those things in a new spirit. We usually find ourselves, at the end of our Sabbath, somehow “unstuck.” 

In Sabbath then, we embrace the Scriptural paradox of Hebrews 4:11: we must labor to rest. This truth seems to continually undergird any reality of transformation in spiritual life.


For all of these readings in one place, order my book 'Learning to Live and Love Like Jesus.'