Before I moved to Charlotte I worked in campus ministry. This meant that unlike most people in full-time ministry, the center of my week was not Sunday but Wednesday, when we had our worship service. So Sunday was pretty much like Saturday, except that we went to church at the beginning of the day. When I started school again, I pretty much stuck with this system. We’d go to church Sunday morning, head home for a nap, and then I’d work on whatever I needed to work on.
Sometime during my first semester a guest lecturer on a fairly random topic (I think it was the character of the ministers who led the Church of Scotland during periods of revival) mentioned the importance of the Fourth Commandment. To my embarrassment I couldn’t remember what the Fourth Commandment was, and when I checked it turned out to be “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Reading in various places that first semester, I learned that the Sabbath was a much bigger deal to lots of my heroes than it had ever been to me. I had always thought of it just as an Old Testament thing, without considering any implications it might have for now. But it is one of the Ten Commandments, after all. It was important enough that God commanded Israel to stone a man who broke it (Num 15:32-36). Of course there are differences in how the Law applies to us under the New Covenant, but at any rate you can see all through the OT that the Sabbath was something God took seriously. And the more I learned about how God intended the Law to teach his people about himself, to display his own holiness in the lives of his people, the more I thought about my own need to keep the Sabbath holy.
So Melissa and I became Sabbatarians— that is, we believe there’s a continued validity to the Fourth Commandment, and one day in seven is still to be kept holy, set apart for God in a way different from the other 6. Under the Old Covenant this was the seventh day of the week, to remember God resting on the seventh day of creation. In the NT, though, we see Christians beginning to meet on the first day of the week to celebrate Christ’s resurrection (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 16:2), and this has been the case through all of church history. So on Sundays, we try to do things differently than we do the rest of the week. We don’t have a lot of hard and fast rules, but some general patterns: no shopping on Sundays, no TV, no schoolwork when I was in school (unless a book I had to read for school was especially good for my soul).
And far from it being a list of rules we need to keep, we’ve found it to be incredibly liberating. For example, when I was swamped with papers and deadlines, and had to work most of the day on Saturdays, we were still guaranteed one day out of seven where schoolwork wouldn’t interfere with family life. We have one day where if the house is messed up, we can’t clean it up– we rest. Most of all, we have a day set aside to worship God with our family of believers. And we have a great reminder that we have rested from any attempt to reconcile ourselves to God through our own work. We look to the work of Another, and we rest in that completed work until we reach the ultimate Sabbath– the eternal rest that remains (Heb 4:9-11) for the people of God.