Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Sabbath and Swing Sets

There's an interesting article in the July 5 Financial Times on how on the British Isle of Lewis, Sunday business closings are the rule, not the exception, and how it's a mixed blessing for tourists but a way of life for traditional residents.

While writer Matthew Engel seems to unfairly castigate Presbyterian norms on observing the Christian Sabbath, there is merit to the argument that legalistically governing Sabbatarian observance does more harm than good and takes the emphasis away from God's grace to the comparative self righteousness of strict adherents.

God commands His people to Sabbath, and He commands it as a blessing for His people. The grace of the Sabbath should not be lost in arguments between Christians on how strict or loosely observance should be drawn, and given the propensity within our evil hearts to look down on those who don't observe the Sabbath as we do, we must guard against self righteousness being the source of Sabbath observance.

For instance, it struck me how this warning adorns the gates of children's playgrounds on the Isle:

While the rest of Britain has long forgotten the notion of a sabbath, Lewis has
not. Tesco, which just moved into the capital, Stornoway, has no plans for
Sunday opening; the golf club is closed; the sports centre is closed; children’s
playgrounds carry signs saying “Please Respect the Sabbath”, which is Hebridean
for “Go Away”.


I'd argue taking your children to the playground after church service on a Sunday is not disrespectful of the Sabbath, particularly if the occasion is seen as opportunity to spend time with one's children talking to them about what they learned in Sunday School. After all, Scripture teaches fathers to turn everyday occasions into opportunities to preach the gospel to their kids (Deut. 6:4-9):

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. [2] 5 You
shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with
all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your
heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk
of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you
lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand,
and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on
the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

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