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Keeping it Holy

May 11, 2012

Being homeschooled through high school afforded me certain advantages. One of them was the ability to study subjects outside of the typical curriculum staples. For example, in what high school would one be able to take a course in theology, yet that was probably my favorite course. This course basically involved me working through the Westminster Shorter Catechism with discussion and study questions.

Now, I’m a Baptist, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism is a distinctly Calvinistic document. At that point in my life, I would have in no way described myself as a Calvinist, so my views were frequently at odds with those presented in the book. This meant that the provided study questions, which were meant to lead into succinct summaries of Calvinist doctrine, instead often began long essays refuting the doctrines I was supposed to affirm because I disagreed (at least at the time) with a large portion of Calvinism. Looking back, I can isolate those wrestlings with every doctrine from baptism to election to communion as seminal in my development as a functional (most of the time) Christian.

The problem was that I began to defend points of views not because the weight of logic and evidence was in favor of those views but because those were the views I had always held. I used my arguments and ability to contest almost any claim to justify the lifestyle I led rather than examining that lifestyle to see if it aligned with the Scriptures.

Eventually, I came to question 57 of the Catechism, which reads as follows:

Q. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservent, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

That’s fine and good. No Christians would argue with that answer. How could they? It basically quotes the exact text of the Bible. However, the study notes that came with the book I was using took that text and tried to argue that this meant the Sabbath was set aside purely for activities that have only spiritual utility. I don’t remember exactly how it was phrased, and “spiritual utility” is a very poor approximation of the concept, but the idea was that if you weren’t spending every moment of the Sabbath in study of God’s Word, petition, or direct praise, you were spending the Sabbath in an ungodly manner.

This rankled me. I had used the Sabbath for everything from soccer games to movie marathons, and I wouldn’t allow some commentator to alter my comfortable life. I began writing a scathing rejection of this legalism, but as I got to the second or third paragraph, I began to realize something: I might not agree with that particular interpretation of keeping the Sabbath holy, but did I do even the minimum to fulfill this law?

Right there, the Bible tells you, straight up, “Don’t do any work on the Sabbath.” I didn’t even follow that, so why was I arguing over the details of the Law when I wasn’t living up to its simplest point? It just wasn’t the culture in which I had been raised. If some work needed to be done, you did it, and you didn’t really care whether it happened to be Sunday or it happened to be another day of the week.

Now, I’m not saying that in no circumstances whatsoever should one exert one’s self physically on the Sabbath. Ever. That is legalism, and Christ condemned that using the very example of the Sabbath. There are circumstances where one must do work on Sunday, and I don’t know whether that’s a sin or not, but I do know Christ’s blood is sufficient to cover it, so feelings of guilt are not the answer.

That said, go ahead and read the ten commandments. Each of those is a ringing statement of what I would call a minimum standard of morality. We embrace each of those today, condemning instantly any small transgression, but somehow we always forget about the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath holy is in the same list as “Thou shalt not murder.” Perhaps we aren’t taking it seriously enough.

This week, why don’t you plan your life around the Sabbath. If your lawn needs to be mowed, plan on doing it Saturday or Monday. If grocery shopping needs to be done, can’t it wait a day?

God doesn’t make rules except ones that are for our good. It will be to your benefit to submit your life to His law, even in something that seems so trivial as what you do on Sundays. I don’t have space here, but I can give large amounts of testimony as to how much better life is when you have a day of rest.

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