To keep the sabbath, or the Lord’s Day, will require that we fence some things, and decide that we don’t do this or that on the day of rest. This is why wise societies often have Sunday trading laws, for instance. But, even saying that, for Christians the Sabbath is not a law but an invitation.
Last week I wrote a rambling exposition of some of the features of Genesis chapter one, but to keep to a reasonable length I didn’t attempt any application.
I thought I’d take some time to tease out these ideas in a little more depth what that means for our lives.
I’ve written previously that rest is not relaxation but is about stopping to realise that you’re a creature. Rest is not recharging, as though we were mechanical units with batteries, but about realising that we are not God and cannot carry on without stopping. Resting gives us more energy because when we work as we are designed to, we work better.
Rest is settling into the order we have made with our hands; or being in the ‘right place’, which is the place that God has placed us, that we have then formed carefully and diligently out of the chaos by the sweat of our brow. Or at least, that’s what rest is for now.
As we pursue our daily work we search for rest, and we choose to rest one day in seven to enjoy the fruits of our labours. Work is not the opposite of rest, though they are different things. The opposite of rest is the curse.
Our future is rest, and our future involves work, so we should stop thinking of them as concepts in opposition to each other. Before the Lord cursed us and commanded the ground to fight us back, it did not resist. Our labours in the age to come will be easy, and our successes surprising beyond our abilities.
It’s only after the curse that we need to let the ground rest from its labour (in Hebrew, literally ‘slavery’) in order to keep being its master. This practice is supposed to teach us to co-operate with the land as we grow up into wisdom and the knowledge of good and bad. When the earth enters its Sabbath rest we will still work the ground, but as Jon Collins likes to say, it will be the equivalent of dropping seed on the ground by accident and the ground springing forth into glorious abundance wherever they fell. Our productive activity won’t be laborious, but joyous. To cease is to experience a taste of the joyousness of age to come.
If the farming metaphors don’t work for you, imagine work that does. In your bridge-building or story-telling, your song-writing or city-administering, the ground will not fight back. Everything will flow as it is supposed to, as though creation were a harmonious whole that worked together to achieve your ends. Because it will be.