Have you ever felt out of place? Have you ever felt this way at church and thought, Isn’t church supposed to be a haven for those in desperate need of a Savior? If I, as a member of the church, have felt left out, can you imagine how many visitors have had a similar experience? Perhaps this sad reality is rooted in our view of the Sabbath and its purpose. In the book of Mark, we read that the “sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). But at times we lose sight of the purpose of the Sabbath and end up breaking it without even realizing it.
In the very passionate local church in Peru in which I grew up, there were rules that you did not break and things you did not say on Sabbath.
What is the purpose of the Sabbath? Adam and Eve used this time to strengthen their relationship with God and with each other. In the Old Testament, the Israelites had laws that demonstrated the beauty of trusting God by keeping the Sabbath, as in the story of the manna and even the sabbatical year. The early church in Acts used the Sabbath not only to worship but to build a community that would strengthen the families and church as a whole. In the very passionate local church in Peru in which I grew up, there were rules that you did not break and things you did not say on Sabbath. Looking back now, I appreciate how passionate members were about reverence and Sabbath keeping. However, I often wonder whether there is a better way to convey the same message without losing the “joy” of the Sabbath.
One of the main struggles for the Israelites was the burden of Sabbath keeping upon them. They had so many rabbinical rules that many became “stiff-necked” and hardened their hearts toward God. A burdensome Sabbath without joy and without communing with God is not the Sabbath God intended for us. Do you feel burdened every Sabbath? John 8:32 reminds us that “the truth shall make [us] free.” Our Savior gave us the Sabbath to rest, commune, worship, and break free from the things holding us down (school, work, problems, debts, etc.). Why do we still hold on to our burdens when we have someone who promised us, “ ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ ” (Matt. 11:28, NKJV)? Is it because we are so focused on the dos and don’ts that we cannot enjoy the Sabbath?
Once we realize the freedom the Sabbath offers and how we can enjoy it every week, our keeping of it will drastically change. We will be a blessing to others because we have learned to receive the blessing of the Sabbath. I challenge you to make the Sabbath a day of freedom and not of bondage!