Sabbath Series part 2 of 4
This week I read a story about a woman in California that works with AIDS patients and other forgotten people in underprivileged areas of the inner city. Her friend, who is a Christian writer, often invites her to join his family for a relaxing day at the beach or even just a meal. She usually turns them down, because the needs on her time are just so great. She never gets it all done and doesn’t feel like she can justify taking a day to go play at the beach.
We’ve seen this same story played out over and again here at Tammany Oaks. There have been more than a few volunteers from out of state as well as local residents who were so driven to serve that they lost sight of their own physical, emotional and spiritual needs. I saw it at Reunion Arena; I warned our apprentices last summer against it…and still I’ve found myself charging headlong into this exhausting wasteland over and over this past year. It’s become all too common to realize that I’ve been so wrapped up in just getting through the day that 6 weeks have passed since my last day off. Why do we find it so hard to accept God’s wonderful call to find our rest in him?
Thankfully, Rachel and I have decided to begin observing a Sabbath every week as a family. We want to acknowledge that we need more than just rest – we need intentional rest in God. We need to celebrate the joy of our Lord and the blessing of his creation. We need to take time to rejoice in our family and worship God together. – I’ll talk more about our experience in my next post.
We are already recognizing the need to acknowledge the enemies of Sabbath. Enemies that will rob our peace and destroy our ability to rest in God or embrace his values.
Some of the enemies of Sabbath are obvious. They are the enemies of God. Greed and lust keep us from the simplicity of Sabbath. But where we identify greed and lust we should have no problem recognizing them as enemies. Anger and bitterness will steal our peace – this is no surprise. Yet even these obvious sins can wind their way into our day. Stress from the desire to “get Sabbath right” can easily cause frustration and anger to begin welling up inside. It doesn’t take long in that situation for something inconsiderate to be said and for all resting to go out the window.
Some enemies are obvious, others are more subtle. Addiction is an obvious evil that will rob us of our ability to rest in God. But what about when we are addicted to something good? What if we are addicted to taking care of people? Or providing for our family? Or leaving a lasting legacy?
Interestingly Jesus didn’t seem suffer from the same Messiah complex that we do. In the Gospels we see Jesus regularly leave sick people sick and lost people lost so that he could withdraw to rest and be alone with the Father – or even to spend time with his disciples. We are not created – even the Son of God – to be “on” all the time.
Of course, the danger in pointing this out is that someone will take the other extreme. There is a sense in which many of the leaders of Israel were so comfortable with the security of their birthright as members of the “Chosen Nation” and in their meeting the minimal standards of covenant keeping that their security became an enemy. There is no need to go the extra mile in service because we don’t want to become workaholics and we can’t be “saved by works” anyway. Yet if we read Isaiah 58 we hear that God is interested in more than people going through the motions, meeting basic requirements. He wants justice and mercy. He wants to see the oppressed set free and the weak stood up for.
By all means, do good! Just seek balance. The enemies of the Sabbath are often found in extreme responses. God is both just and merciful. Extreme justice has no room for mercy and mercy to an extreme is injustice…so we find in God’s nature an example of balance. Identifying the enemies of Sabbath should provide us with an opportunity to prayerfully determine what is the holy, healthy response – not necessarily to run screaming in the other direction (though that may admittedly be the most holy and healthy response to some enemies.)
While it is my prayer that God’s people will continue to become more known for their pursuit of justice and mercy in this world, I pray that this pursuit to reflect the image of God will not become a god unto itself. We need both work and rest; we must have both with rhythm and balance. Anything that breaks down the created rhythm or that distances us from either resting or serving in God’s presence is a work of the enemy.