Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sabbath Rest

According to a study being reported in the media only 57% of Canadians rate their overall health as "excellent" or "very good." Analysts feel that the lower percentage is largely due to stress and fatigue which plagues people of all ages. Furthermore, the study indicates that significant numbers of physically healthy women in their 20s to early 40's are suffering from various mental health issues. It would seem that men and women are having trouble balancing all of their responsibilities in our modern world. None of which is that surprising given the fact that there is little downtime especially for couples with families. Life is hectic and eventually it starts to take a toll on people's health and sense of well-being. Sooner or later something has to give.

Maybe it is time to resurrect an old word which has passed from common usage in recent years - sabbath. It was not that long ago that society significantly slowed on Sundays, at least long enough for people to catch their breath. But now that "day of rest" is a thing of the past. The world does not have time to rest. There is so much to do and so little time in which to do it. Within the church Sabbattarian theology has been battered by better readings of the Old and New Testaments which reveal that the old Sabbath was a sign of the covenant that God made with Israel and something that typified salvation rest in Jesus Christ, not only in this age but even more so in the age to come. And yet, it seems to me we have lost something important. We have pushed too far and in the process we have forgotten larger biblical-theological themes.

For instance, there is more to life than work. We are ultimately made for a relationship with God, not merely to be cogs in the economic machine. God has structured the world according to a seven day week. If under the terms of the Old Covenant the children of Israel needed to rest one day in seven who are we to think we can go full tilt all the time without breakdowns. From a practical and pragmatic point of view, if we do not make time to worship God and spend time with our families, it is not going to happen. If this is true on an individual level it is also true on a general societal level. Someone has to call "time out!"

Decisions need to be made and publicly discussed about what is helpful and what is harmful. Unfortunately people need to be protected from themselves and from others who will exploit and take advantage of them. Heads of families, churches, companies and countries need to think through what it means to be made in God's image and to be fulfilled has human beings. Undoubtedly productive work is a part of that equation. But it is not the whole. Time to think, to look around at the world God has made, to develop our relationships is also important. Finding the balance between work and rest is not easy but something that we need to think about and discuss together before we are completely overwhelmed.

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