Liberation and the Sabbath


By not taking Sabbath rest seriously, I am keeping myself enslaved when I have already been set free by Christ.

The other day, I sent an email to a client around 9:00 pm. He wrote back right away, even though it was "after hours."

"After hours." Remember that concept? It used to be that work was contained within certain boundaries. I remember back at the turn of the century if I sent an email "after hours," I was likely to get a response that started with, "What are you doing at work so late?" But now, thanks to smart phones and other devices, our work spills into all sorts of hours and no one seems to notice anymore.

On some level, that's helpful. These tools allow us to be productive at times that serve our personal schedules. But on another level, that means it's hard to turn work off. I find that I carry around my phone and reflexively check it everywhere. With a few quick keystrokes, I can respond to emails and keep the workflow on track. As a small business owner, I need to keep the tasks moving ahead. It's a good day if my inbox is under 100 messages. But as a Christian, I wonder about how it has affected my ability to turn off, rest, and worship. I also wonder how, through these tools and habits, I affect the ability of others to rest and worship.

Ironically, it was through the Entrepreneurship Initiative (Ei) Forum in New York City that I received a recording from Tim Keller that helped me think through some of these issues. Appropriately titled "Work and Rest," this 2003 message was given before work became omnipresent. I highly recommend that you listen to it. Some of Tim Keller's key points in this message are listed below:

  • Examining Luke 6:1-11, we see that Jesus did not abolish the Sabbath, but affirmed it by saying He was Lord of the Sabbath. Which means that Jesus is Lord of rest.
  • How can you rest? You rest when you think your work is good and complete. This is modeled for us in Genesis 1, when God creates the world, says it is good, and He who needs it not, rests.
  • Why is it hard for us to rest? Because we are always seeking affirmation and identity in our productivity and accomplishments. But the incredible concept of Christianity is that the only One to whom you have to prove yourself has already completed what you cannot do. Jesus is the only One who can truly say, "It is finished." Therefore, it is through the finished work of Jesus that we can rest.
  • The Sabbath is an act of liberation. "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day." (Deut. 5:15 NIV). If you don't rest, you are a slave—a slave to your job, to the expectations of others, to your own reputation, whatever.
  • Rest is an act of trust. It says, "I'm not the One who keeps the world running. I am not God."

There's much to mine out of this message. But if there's one concept that really leapt out at me, it was the idea that the Sabbath is an act of liberation. By not taking Sabbath rest seriously, I am keeping myself enslaved when I have already been set free by Christ. And by not taking Sabbath rest seriously at this point of my life, I am also buying into the American concept that rest comes with retirement... and not before then. But I do not need to be enslaved until some arbitrary age! I have been liberated by Christ Himself.

I urge you to listen to this message and plan ahead for ways you can get off the treadmill of emails, housework, scheduled activities, and the like... and enjoy Sabbath rest. Live like people liberated by the King!

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