News flash: SABBATH-BREAKING HAS NOT BEEN DOWNGRADED TO A MISDEMEANOR.
Oh, for years most of us have heard amateur theologians and Bible "pseudo-scholars" asserting with the kind of loud confidence always reserved for the most seriously mistaken, that, of the Ten Big Commandments, we could certainly forget about #4. After all, the "old Law" that used to so tie people up in knots has been done away with, and now we're under a new law, by which they generally mean the New Testament, which they contort into an upgraded system of law to use to continue to tie people up in pretty much the same old knots.
Well, what Jesus has done on the cross has indeed released us from slavery to a written code and established a completely new covenant based on the Spirit and not the law. But it has most certainly not altered God's character as revealed in those Ten Commandments. Up might as well become down. Lies and murder might as easily become as godlike as truth and love. Don't look for the truth of those commandments—God's very nature—to change.
And that Sabbath commandment? Well, there's mystery here we'll never fully understand, but I think we can be sure of these things:
*God gave us this "Sabbath" commandment, this principle of rest, to bless us, not to tie us up with a picky law and tempt us to become piety police. I'd not at all bind rules about particular days and what constitutes "work" on anyone, but . . .
*If even God needed to rest after the work of creation, isn't it incredibly arrogant for me to act as if I never do?
*Regularly taking time for rest is an act of faith proving that I trust God to be true to his word to care for me and keep the world spinning even when I try to stop my own spinning for a few moments.
*Taking time to truly rest (and being wary of making even my rest a kind of work) is an act of creaturely humility, a dose of the Creator's antivenom for my poisonous pride.
*A time of rest recalibrates my perspective and helps me better learn to separate what is truly important from what is only "urgent."
*Taking time to rest is an act of discipline. You may know some lazy people in danger of starvation or poverty, but I'll wager you know hundreds more who along with their stressed out families live near the brink of exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and a multitude of relational dysfunctions—largely because they don't have the discipline ever to stop and be still.
Most families, by the way, have a "barometer," a person who most quickly registers pain or discomfort when the family is under too much pressure. Even if I have a need to think that following God's commandment to rest is only for those who are weak (It most certainly is not!), I need to ask God to help me love the "weak" people around me enough to obey him in faith, give them and myself a break, and soak up a little "Sabbath," a little rest.
God wants that for us. And in a thousand more ways than I can list here, he'll use that intentional rest, that move toward balance, that simple act of faith, to bless us and those around us as we obey our Father. He knows best.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org