Social Worker, Miqlat Ministry
Sabbath may mean differently to different people and as Christians, our approach to observing Sabbath varies. In this article, I’m referring Sabbath to Sunday. For many, Sunday could be attending Church and worshipping, rest from daily chores and activities. At times, Sundays are also set aside for cleaning the house/ washing clothes/ family outings or get together etc. With time, there have been shifts and changes and our religious and traditional practice of observing Sabbath is gradually diminishing. The trend of eating out as family or individuals has also led to the opening of restaurant and business stores on Sundays.
A friend recounted that the Church she attends has more congregation than it normally used to be and cited that it could be because of the closure of markets on Sunday and decrease in other social obligations. Could that be one factor? Another friend recollected that years ago, all the shops used to be closed on Sundays and though it gave a deserted look, it reminded us that Sunday is a day of rest and that people should uphold it. Yet now, Sunday is like any other day. With the recent incident on the closure of shops on Sundays, there have been issues that people have to go to Dillai Gate (Nagaland – Assam border) to do shopping and that businesses in Dimapur are suffering and that has affected the livelihood of the people. Many of us wait for Sundays to do the needful shopping, giving the excuse of time constraints. We make excuses but if we are truly sincere, we can do all the required groceries on Saturday. With the growing debates on the closure on Sundays, what is pondersome, “Is our values on our religious practices decreasing?”
We live in a pluralistic society with people practising diverse faiths, where establishments /institutions are closed on Sundays not because they are all Christian or everyone goes to Church on Sunday. In Nagaland and even in other parts of the world, we observe that non Christians do not go to Church on Sundays, but still they take a break from all their normal routines of life and rest on Sundays. For them, it could be renewing of relationship with family or a time for reflection on their works. They also practice diligently realising how important it is to intentionally and actively disengage themselves and make a boundary between their lives, works and relationships and focus on other important things. It is also a time for them to do something different, to de-stress so that they can effectively cope and continue their respective works.
We may be religiously practicing and observing Sunday and think that we are performing our duty well. In our Naga context, we often come across the phrase; “Sunday Christian”, basically referring to people who diligently worship on Sundays but the other days, live a different lifestyle. Growing up, I have also come across instances where I attended Church out of moral obligation of being a Christian. And sometimes, we go to Church as a routine to avoid the guilt conscience. Do we attend Church to gratify our moral obligations?
The Bible talks about rest on Sabbath. Does this rest imply only of rest from the physical activities and refreshing our physical body? What about our emotional, mental and spiritual well being? Where do we derive the energy to renew, restore our relationship with God and get spiritual feeding? Does Sabbath only mean attending Sunday worship services or closure of shops? As we read in the Bible, the creation account in Genesis clearly states that God rested on the seventh day and made it holy. Was God tired and needed rest? The seventh day is a day of solemn rest. Genesis 2:3 says “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that he had done”. It implies how important it is for us to honor the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27) and observe it. God designed that day for a specific purpose and He ordained it. “We are the same people who uphold Sabbath and set aside this rest yet we are also the people abandoning this rest and embracing the new opportunities Sunday offered (Ayala, 2012).”
Worshipping God on the seventh day was an identity that distinguished the Israelites from other nations. Likewise, in our context today, one characteristic feature and identity of our Christian practice that keeps us apart from the rest of the other faiths is our worship on Sunday, that we belong to God. All over the world, Sunday is considered a day of rest even by other faith. They considered it a day of rest, a time to refresh and a time to hang out and enjoy. So how much more do we need to uphold it? The very fact that God rested on the seventh day implies how important it is to cease from all our works and rest. How much more do we Christians need to understand and keep the Sabbath day holy?
Maintaining the sanctity of Sabbath is our responsibility as Christian, as God’s people. Merely going to Church on Sundays does not make us righteous but it ensures that as body of Christ, we are fellowshipping together. Sabbath is more than fellowshipping and hearing of God’s Word. Sabbath is a time to renew, reflect, refresh our mind, soul, spirit and restore our personal relationship with God. Sabbath is a celebration of God’s gift and His relationship with His creation (Diddams, 2004). Sabbath also reminds us that we are His creation and He is our Creator, Sustainer, in whom we live and have our being. Observing and understanding Sabbath will orient us as to how we can live more effectively for God. We honor God not just by abstaining from work but also honouring Him with our day.
Diddams, Margaret & Klein Surdyk, Lisa & Daniels, Denise. (2004). Rediscovering Models of Sabbath Keeping: Implications for Psychological Well-Being. Journal of Psychology and Theology. 32. 3-11.
Ayala, Sharon(2012).Losing Sabbath. Retrieved from https://viewpoint.pointloma.edu/losing-sabbath/
This is the seventh article of the Sabbath/ Sunday Series, an initiative of Oriental Theological Seminary.