I have to admit I wasn’t all that keen about reading a book on keeping the Sabbath. I imagined it as an extended rebuke to the modern church for its failure to observe Sunday as a day set apart for God the way previous generations (i.e. before I was born) did.
But I was intrigued by the title, 24/6. And I read enthusiastic reviews, telling what a fun book it is, easy to read, filled with personal stories and a positive outlook. And I did want to know what God wants in terms of keeping the Fourth Commandment. It had always seemed strange to me that only nine out of the ten would still be valid.
Arguments I have heard/read that the Sabbath is not applicable to Christians are that it is not reiterated in the New Testament, that it was part of the old covenant and thus obsolete, and that Paul speaks of one who “esteems all days alike” as making an acceptable choice so long as he is “fully convinced in his own mind.” Those arguments satisfied me to the point that I did not feel guilty for not keeping Sunday (or Saturday) as a day of rest, but I always wondered about it.
I’ve never had a full-time job that required me to work on Sundays (I can’t remember now which part-time jobs may have included Sunday hours, back when I was much younger). And my husband and I agreed that our children would not have sports games/practices or school-related activities on Sundays (with rare exceptions). But I often end up doing grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, and sometimes yardwork on Sundays.
The book is indeed an easy read. Matthew Sleeth, a former emergency room doctor, has some great stories to tell. Most of them don’t related directly to the Sabbath, but they illustrate principles about life that he relates in some way to his topic.
Mostly he makes the point that humans need rest on a regular basis, because this is the way we were designed by God, and that it only makes sense to follow God’s instructions to get that rest we need. Stopping for one day a week provides that rest.
I really didn’t need any convincing in that regard. I feel no compulsion to do more work (though I hate to face a larger pile of dishes and laundry the following day), and I certainly don’t feel the urge so many people seem to these days to constantly check for email or text messages. The idea of relaxing on Sunday sounds great.
But honoring God with the Sabbath seems to require more than just resting. Sleeth speaks of rest itself being holy, because God – who is holy – rested on the seventh day of creation. But Christians have always seen the Lord’s Day as more than just a day not to work.
For years I attended churches that had services both Sunday morning and Sunday evening. You simply weren’t considered a committed Christian if you didn’t attend both (and Wednesday evening prayer meeting as well). And some people talk about how wonderful it is to have the rest of the day for prayer, reading the Bible or Christian books, and fellowshipping with other Christians.
I have to admit that my idea of a relaxing Sunday afternoon is to enjoy a good book – but it’s more likely to be a mystery or historical fiction than one with a spiritual emphasis. I usually do some crossword puzzles – after all, there are whole sections of my crossword books labeled “Sunday Brunch,” “Sunday Best,” and “Super Sunday.”
Sleeth gives little guidance in this regard. He talks about how wonderful it is for him to spend time with God, but doesn’t make any suggestions how others might do this. He doesn’t even think it matters which day of the week is set apart, so long as it is one day a week. Since my husband is a pastor and only gets Sunday off when he takes vacation, I can appreciate that. (Though it seems we’ll never get the same day off as long as I work full-time.)
Some of the book deals with practical ways to get work done ahead of time so that it won’t have to be done on Sunday (or whichever day is “Stop Day” as he likes to call it). He also mentions ideas to help parents of young children and of school-age children.
But I still find myself with the question of “what do I do on Sunday.” Sleeth mentioned thinking of it as a vacation day one day a week, and I liked that idea. But I found that I associate “vacation” too much with “doing what I please.” Even vacation should honor God, of course, but a day with that mindset didn’t seem set aside to God. And then having to go back to work the next day made it seem more of a “Monday” than usual (the way it often is after being gone on vacation).
I think what Sleeth writes is great as far as it goes. But it doesn’t seem to have answered many of my questions about Sabbath-keeping.