I have heard it said that America is an incredibly difficult place to live if one believes they are only as lovable as their last job/event performance. I think that statement is terrifyingly true. American culture whispers through media, tv, movies, magazines, billboards, and commercials the idea that you are valuable if you are productive.
If this is true about American culture, then the question must be asked, “What does the Christian faith have to say to this?” Personally, I am convinced that the best response to this question is an ancient word…
Now, why is Sabbath a timeless concept that still speaks today? Here is my answer.
- In a culture that defines people by what they do, to Sabbath well is, in reality, an insurrection of the status quo.
- It is in this sense that Sabbath is a divinely appointed and routinely enacted reminder that we are not what we produce.
- Remember, Jesus did not see rest as “doing nothing.” To rest is to actively choose to recharge and avoid burnout.
Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote a delightful book on Sabbath that I could, in no way, surpass. Within those pages he dives into a philosophical approach to Sabbath as well as how humanity can easily comprehend sacred space… But sacred time, however, is elusive because it is something that we cannot touch or taste or feel.
Sabbath is absolutely about learning that even time itself can be seen as a sacred gift.
But what makes it sacred? Because to enact Sabbath is a repetition, an echo, a remembrance of the creation story found in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. Repetition and remembrance are the ways that we anchor ourselves into our founding narratives or worldviews.
You see, to enact Sabbath is to distance or detach ourselves from our self-destructive foundational story that our work defines all of who we are. With our words we often say that God created the world, but choose to leave out that God rested and enjoyed. With a foundational story told in such manner, we are subtly justifying our 70 hour weeks and give in to the idea that to work constantly is being “like God.”
The reality is that to work without rest is to be very much unlike God, and more an homage to ourselves than to the character, nature and will of God.
Sabbath, then, is a shock to our system. A shock to our worldview. A shock to our own distorted view of ourselves and God.
Certainly, Sabbath is rebellion. But Sabbath is not a rebellion against God, it is instead obedience to God. Sabbath challenges the status quo, Sabbath challenges cultural education that we need to produce and perform perpetually. (Did you like that bit of literation?)
The reality is that you have the ability to say, “It is against my religious convictions to work 7 days a week. It is inherent to my faith that I embody the character of God. And since this is the case, I am going bowling with friends on a Friday night and then hiking in the morning.” Okay, that might be how I think God might recharge, but hey, you do you.
In the end, we can relax. How delightful is that? How brilliant the movement of God that to be obedient to God means rebellion to the cultural status quo?
Now, this also brings us to another way that Sabbath is a call to rebellion. Sabbath should also cause all of us to question a system, to question policies, to question whole frameworks that don’t pay people enough to be able to have a Sabbath. Some people, through no fault of their own are bound to working 7 days a week without a chance to see their own spouse, children or friends. Sabbath also calls us to question why there are people who are not Sabbathing with us. If our understanding of the faith only involves us and our lives but doesn’t seek to liberate and lift others, then it is a farce.
So, here is some homework. I dare you. Go ask someone to coffee… and then invite them to rethink their world, rethink their view of themselves, rethink their view of God by asking them,
“So how to you understand the Sabbath?”