What would it be like if we all took a day off each week to enjoy quiet time, relaxing, fellowship, and time with the Lord?
I know, sounds insane and impossible, right? After all, Mom and Dad both have full time jobs, and when they aren’t at work, they have to be sure that the kids get off to school on time, that there is food in the fridge when they get home, that Timmy gets to soccer practice, that Emily doesn’t miss ballet, that the house gets cleaned, and more. Often, if you’re a Christian family, there’s even more to do! You also have to be sure that the family isn’t late for church, that kids get to the proper Sunday school classes, that Mom gets the event for Women’s Ministry planned, that Dad’s at Deacons’ meeting, and that everyone remembers to read their Bible and pray each day.
All of this is on our plates, and you want us to drop everything and take a day – just - OFF?
Yep, that’s the general idea. Silly, isn’t it? Yet that is a very major part of the theme in Dr. Matthew Sleeth’s newest book, 24/6 (interestingly enough, when I just typed the book title, spell check underlined the number 6 with it’s angry red perforations. Even computers seem to know these days that we are supposed to be going 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no room for rest in between!)
All in all, I loved this book. I first became acquainted with Dr. Sleeth a couple years ago when I became convicted that I, as a Christian, should learn to appreciate and care for God’s creation. As I stumbled across liberal blog after liberal blog about being a good treehugger, I started to become discouraged. Are there no Christians out there who appreciate the creation God has given us? I thought. It was at that time that I stumbled across the website of Blessed Earth (www.blessedearth.org) and felt encouraged. After discovering this Bible based organization that helps Christians learn about and live creation care, I read Matthew’s first book, Serve God, Save the Planet. My initial thought was that the title sounded cliche, and – you guessed it – liberal. Still, I liked what I had learned so far about Blessed Earth, so I gave the book a shot, and I have loved Dr. Sleeth’s writing ever since.
The premise of his latest installment is that Christians are called by God to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath is to be a day of rest, a day of pursuing one’s relationship with God (and if you feel those two ideas are mutually exclusive, you really don’t understand the concept of having a relationship with the Jesus I know), a day of fellowship with family and friends, and a day of holiness. Is work a bad thing? Of course not. The Bible commands us to work and condemns laziness and idleness, but the God who created us also understands our need for time away from those things. He created the Sabbath for man because He created man with a need for a relationship with Him, as well as a need for rest. The biblical concept of the Sabbath is God’s acknowledgement of both. When we remember the fourth commandment and live it the way God intended, the good that this will do for us and our relationships with the Lord will be a tremendous blessing.
I can already hear the objections: This is the legalism of the Pharisees! We are no longer under the Mosaic Law! We’re now under grace! We don’t have to keep those commandments anymore!
Let me state simply that it is not. One cannot get many pages into this book without discovering that Sleeth is careful to point out that he believes in following the spirit of the Law, not the letter of the Law. If the Pharisees could label something as work, it was not allowed on the Sabbath. In the teachings of Jesus, He is quick to point out that the Pharisees missed the whole point of the Law that was given in the first place. They constantly accused those who would help others on the Sabbath, but if one is in need, how are they to enjoy the Sabbath? How can they rest when they are going hungry, maybe even can’t feed their children? What if they are sick? What if they just lost their home? Are we as Christians to say: That can wait until Monday? Of course not. If the idea behind the Sabbath is to focus on the first and greatest commandment, and the second which is like unto it, how can we sit back and watch a brother suffer and still enjoy fellowship with the Lord? We can’t. It simply doesn’t work that way.
We can, however, have a day where we skip sports practices and games, refuse to go to the office, put school work aside, and instead really rest and relax. Do minimal work around the house, read the Bible or other books, take naps when the urge hits us, watch that favorite movie or TV show, go to church and fellowship with friends and family, or go for a walk, sometimes just with the Lord, and sometimes with others as well.
I have to admit, I was an easy sell for this book. It has long bothered me to see Christians completely ignore this commandment and act as if Sunday (or whatever day they choose to observe as the Sabbath) is no different from any other day of the week. When I was in college, I began a regular practice of taking Sunday off from school work, cleaning my dorm, and other similar activities. At first this was difficult. I found myself bored on Sundays. It was also sometimes problematic because I started finding that taking a day off demanded preparation beforehand. This meant doing my studying and cleaning on Saturday, when others wanted to go out and play until it was time to cram at the last minute. The boredom would occasionally get to me, I would finally cave and start cleaning or studying. After a while, I finally found myself giving up, and just treating my Sundays like I always had before: any other day of the week.
Soon after I went back to my old way of doing things, however, I found myself more worn out than ever, and as if I was truly missing something. My brain felt like it was on overload, and I had trouble finding peace and quiet which my mind and body needed desperately. I was also missing those wonderful quiet moments with the Lord. After I started taking one day a week, I noticed that some of my most special moments of fellowship with Him, or some of my most profound insights into scripture, came on or soon after Sunday.
With scripture, as well as personal experience in mind, this book simply rang true with me. I also appreciate Dr. Sleeth’s writing style: easy to read, packed with scripture, and filled with personal anecdotes that are sometimes humorous, sometimes convicting, sometimes causing a variety of other feelings and emotions. After finishing this book, I would not hesitate to recommend 24/6 to anyone who wishes to learn about a biblical perspective on keeping the Sabbath.