What Is Sabbath?
From my experience, it seems that not many Christians are practicing Sabbath today. Those who do practice Sabbath often have misconceptions about what Sabbath is. The fact that so many Christians do not practice something that is clearly commanded in Scripture is, I believe, the result of two factors. First, many Christians have not been taught what Sabbath is and how it should be practiced. Second, our culture works against a Sabbath mentality. The two of these things together convince many Christians that Sabbath is not really necessary or important. However, God knew that we would need to take a day of rest because of our finite limitations. This is why he modeled Sabbath for us (Genesis 2:2). It is also why he commands it for us. He is not adding a burden to us by doing so, but rather teaching us to live life as he intended it to be lived. Both the myths about Sabbath that are prevalent in churches, as well as the consumerism/workaholic society that we live in works against the practice of Sabbath. Let's take a look at some of these myths:
1. Sabbath is just a day off.
This is one of the most common misconceptions about Sabbath. In reality, this is simply a myth. While the Sabbath is a day off in the sense that we are to rest from work, it is more than just a day off. While it does involve relaxation, it is not a day centered around that, either. Rather, a Sabbath is different than a regular day off because the focus of the Sabbath is different. The Sabbath is not about us. It is entirely about God. Therein lies the key distinction between your days off from work. While our days off are focused on us and what we have to do away from work, the Sabbath is about connecting with God and keeping the focus on him. So why do we think that it is just a time of rest?
2. We can do whatever we want on the Sabbath.
This is not the intention of the Sabbath. As originally intended, the Sabbath was a day of rest that was intended to focus on God. This does not mean that everyday activities, which we often enjoy, have to be absent. We can still do things like eat or take a nap. However, the focus is to be on God and enjoying him, not on the activities associated with a day off.
3. Sabbath is just an individual activity.
In other words, this misconception states that Sabbath is something that you do on your own, independent from everyone else. This is a myth. It seems that our individualistic culture has played a part in perpetuating this myth. Scripture describes sabbath as both an individual and communal act. So if you are practicing alone, you might want to encourage someone else to sabbath with you.
4. The sabbath must take place on a specific day.
This is a myth that many people believe. It is important to consider that, while many people who sabbath do so on Sunday, this is not a possibility for the pastors and staff of a church. They must find another day in order to observe the sabbath. Their responsibilities to the church on Sunday prevent them from practicing sabbath on Sunday.
5. We cannot do anything on the Sabbath.
This is the polar opposite of number 2 above. It is not the case that we cannot do anything on the Sabbath, as though we have nothing to do but lay in bed. Rather, the Sabbath is a time to focus on God. We should not think that we cannot do anything, but just remember that we are to enjoy God's presence on the Sabbath.
6. The Sabbath is a burden.
The Sabbath is not a burden. Rather, it should be a joy for us to follow. It is God's command that is rooted in God's own actions in creation. It was intended to be a joy, not a burden.
7. Sabbath is a reward.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from number 6 is the idea that Sabbath is a reward for a hard week of work. God gives Sabbath as a gift, not a reward. It is not something that God gives us because of our own hard work, but something that he gives by his grace. We should be careful not to get this confused.
8. Sabbath is optional.
One of the common misconceptions that people have is that the Sabbath is optional. This is likely spurred on by the perspective of our workaholic culture. We must be intentional in practicing Sabbath if we are to do what God commands us to do.
9. The Sabbath is only for Jewish people.
This is a common misconception. The Sabbath is not just for the Jewish people. It is also for Christians. The early Christians practiced Sabbath on Sunday, and this was the practice that we have inherited today. If you are a Christian, you are supposed to be practicing the Sabbath.
10. Pastors do not have a chance to Sabbath.
I mentioned earlier that pastors cannot practice Sabbath on Sunday because of their ministry responsibilities. However, this does not mean that they shouldn't Sabbath or do not Sabbath. Rather, they must Sabbath at a different time of the week. This can become difficult if this is not done intentionally.
Now that we have seen what Sabbath is not, we should ask ourselves what Sabbath really is. In short, Sabbath is a full day of rest centered around God and Jesus. Rather than being a burden, it is a joyous requirement for the Christian. We should practice this at least weekly. If it is not joyful for you, then you are doing it wrong.
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