Take a quick test. Place a mental check-mark beside each of the following activities that you believe is acceptable “Sabbath” behavior. Feel free to add your favorites to the list:
__Mowing the lawn
__Going to the movies
__Playing games with children
__Playing golf, tennis or another favorite sport
__Visiting with family and friends
__Going to a concert
You get the idea. What isn’t “acceptable” Sabbath behavior these days, at least according to most Americans?
For generations, some Christian Americans appear to have been as pharisaical as some first-century Jews who clashed with Jesus over what he and his disciples ought not to do on the Sabbath. Many were the households where Sunday brought a laundry list of rules you dared not break.
Somewhere along the way the rules changed. Or could it be that we have rather deepened our understanding of what Jesus meant when he said, “‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,'” and the “Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matt 12:8)?
Baptist Standard Editor Marv Knox reminds us that after six days of creating, “God saw all that had been made and pronounced it good and rested. … We come near to ‘keeping the Sabbath’ when we join God in coming to peace with God’s creation, including ourselves, our lives, our families and our circumstances” (See “24/7: One Hundred Sixty-eight Reasons to Rest With God“).
Knox challenges us to consider Sabbath-keeping on days other than Sunday, although that’s certainly a great place to start. “The spirit of Sabbath-keeping should be reflected in our lives day by day. When we rejoice with God and find tranquility and serenity in our role as God’s created ones, we will go far toward ridding ourselves and our culture of the driving, consumptive disease that inflicts our society 24/7.”
Some rules are important. They help us live civilly and treat others respectfully. But rules are never more important than people and relationships. For Jesus, nothing could bring God more honor on the Sabbath than to help someone, heal them or somehow make their life better and more meaningful.
Showing love and mercy, not following rules and regulations, affirms our commitment to God’s will on the Sabbath and every day.
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.