Sunday, 21 August 2011


"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy."

So says the fourth of the ten commandments, which I rather think might be the hardest of the lot to understand. People may argue about exactly what constitutes murder, for instance, but there's widespread agreement that it would be a really bad idea for me to cut my little brother's throat, even if he is annoying. On the other hand, is it wrong to play sports matches on Sundays? To do homework? To go to work? To read anything other than the 'Sunday books' of Anne of Green Gables and the like? To skip church?

Some people will give me strong opinions on some -- or even most -- of those points, but it's difficult to find a consensus. Part of that, I think, is to do with the new covenant. Part of it is that we don't have a properly concrete understanding of what 'holy' means -- we get the general idea, but finding an actual definition that encapsulates said idea is hard. Part of it is that keeping the Sabbath holy might be even harder than figuring out what holy actually means.

My current opinion is that 'keeping holy' will look different for different people. There's probably a kind of Gaussian distribution of what's acceptable. I don't think it's great when people are so busy at work that they can't make it to church -- but maybe there are situations where the best way of giving the day to God is to go to work. I would never criticise somebody for going home after church to finish an essay due the next morning -- but I make a point of not doing that myself.

I think there's a great deal of good in my studies and the work I do for them. I also think that there's more to my life than those studies. Sundays remind me of that. When I make the rule that I don't do academic work on Sundays, I remember that. There is time to play with the kids at church, or bake for the family, or just to slow down enough to appreciate everything I have. It's not necessarily time that I think I have, but it's time that I can make. And maybe, hopefully, the more I make the time at all, the more I can make it specifically God's time.

Because it's enough of a challenge to make the time at all. Sometimes it seems like Sunday afternoon would be far better spent in getting a couple hours of work in on that tricky assignment. This semester it is oh-so-hard not to crack open my computational physics notes when I know that the lecturer of my seven forty-five Monday morning class loves spot tests. I don't think opening the file would be wrong in itself, but trying to reclaim the time that God has told me to put aside would be wrong. It's a kind of sacrifice. The first fruits of my week are going to God, not to my comp. phys. lecturer.

That's what it means for me. Maybe it would be different for everyone else. Maybe it's just where I am right now. It does make me realise, though, that something I'm tempted to dismiss as impractical is actually just hard. (It's hard for me, at least.) It makes me wonder what else we dismiss as impractical because we don't want to do it, rather than because it can't be done.

It makes me wonder how much we're missing.

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