Breaking Sabbath

Today was an interesting day. For starters, it was the first day of class. Yes, on a Sunday. Here, the weekend is Friday and Saturday. Somehow, I think that I can now appreciate the significance of Sunday as a day of worship more fully.

I guess I first really started thinking about it a year or so ago, during the first NOLA spring break trip, when Collin asked me if I kept the Sabbath. I said, well, I tried to take it a little easier on Sundays … did I keep the Sabbath as defined by Mosaic law? No, I admitted.

I suppose I thought about it somewhat in the following months, but it really jumped out at me this past week. Should a Christian actually keep the traditional Sabbath, on Saturday, instead of observing Sunday, the first day, as the Lord’s Day? After all, don’t the Ten Commandments instruct us to “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”, and to rest on the seventh day? So if we worship on Sunday, are we routinely, deliberately breaking that law?

I think the answer is yes. Yes, if the Sabbath is the last day of the week – and I believe it is. It doesn’t translate to anything in Hebrew but “Sabbath”, which for thousands of years has been that seventh day. It doesn’t translate to “any day of worship that you choose”.

There are several reasons why I am deliberately, joyously choosing to break the letter of this law. First, as Paul points out in Romans and Galatians, those who have received God’s Holy Spirit are not bound by Mosaic law; the law is superceded by the Abrahamic covenant (see Galatians 3). My salvation is not dependent on my keeping the Sabbath, or on doing anything else, for that matter. Why? Because it is dependent on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, the perfect lamb; dependent on the actions of God, not myself. (And I, for one, am really glad that it doesn’t depend on me, because I would screw it up in two seconds flat. To quote Galatians again: “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”)

Second, Christians worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, for a reason: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was an event so significant that the early church (numbering more than three thousand, forty days after the death and resurrection of Christ), trained from birth to set aside the Sabbath, abandoned thousands of years of tradition and met on Sunday. This was no insignificant act! But as a Christian, I am privileged to celebrate the most important event in history every week by formally worshipping on the first day. (Why is the Resurrection the most important event? Because through this, Christ – who is God – demonstrated his power over death. If he can raise himself up, he can also raise me to eternal life. If he couldn’t, then I have no hope.)

Third, Christians were observing Sunday, aka breaking the Sabbath, as early as Acts 20, which speaks of the disciples meeting on the first day of the week to break bread, or take communion. At this time the inspired letters which make up part of our Bible were still being written. I really believe that if God had desired the church to keep the Mosaic Sabbath, he would have indicated it in these letters. After all, Christians got lambasted pretty strongly for some other issues.

However, I don’t think that worshipping on Sunday is breaking the spirit of the law about Sabbath, which is to set aside a day to focus on God, and not yourself. Having gotten the Sabbath/Sunday issue out of my system, that’s the problem I should really be focusing on: How much of my Sunday am I giving to God?

Thanks, Collin.

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