I grew up in the 60s, just a few decades removed from World War II. I had two older brothers and a younger sister, and we played with guns. Toy guns. We played army, war games, in an eight-year old kind of way. We also played the very unpolitically correct cowboys and Indians. After all, TV in those days was Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. Our guns were sticks, and as time went on, we moved up the socio-economic ladder and had “real” plastic guns; green guns with stickers that made rat-a-tat noises; and no gaudy orange safety barrels.
Now of course this was pre-Columbine and pre-Sandy Hook. Guns did not have the horrific social stigma that they have today in this terrorist, mass-shooting era. So this was our world of boyhood in the 60s. We glamorized war and cut our teeth on toy guns.
But our parents, far wiser to the way things really were in the Viet Nam era, recognized that guns and war were not so glamorous. And so we had a household rule, a Sabbath rule if you will, “no guns on Sunday.” We could play guns and war and cowboys and Indians six days a week; but on Sunday, the guns had to be put away. Why? It was the Sabbath, a different kind of day, a unique day, a holy day.
My parents understood that at some level, Sunday was different. It was the modern variation of the Sabbath, and it was to be kept holy.
Dad staunchly refused to take a Sunday paper. Our newspaper in those days came in the late afternoon, and the Sunday paper came in the morning. But he was adamant that nothing would distract from our preparing to go to church. It was bad enough trying to find matching shoes and ensuring our hair stayed combed. No way would there be those colorful comic pages laying around, sucking us in to reading Peanuts and Dick Tracy. This day was different; it was holy. No guns, no newspaper.
In Scripture, holy means “set apart” or “unique.” Different. So when God says “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” He means “make it different.” Whatever this Sabbath is, it is clearly supposed to be different than the other six days. That is why mom and dad wouldn’t let us play with guns on Sunday; we did different things on this day. We went to church, we took naps, we played differently.
I would argue that God gave us Sabbath as a universal, timeless principle. One day out of each week is to be set aside as different, unique. We do different things, we play differently, we don’t work. He instituted it at creation. He set it in stone at Mt Sinai as the fourth commandment, which means it is in the same list with the same weight as “do not murder” and “do not commit adultery.” It was not just for Israel, it is for us all today. One day, each week, different.
So how are we doing with this? Do you set aside one day each week on which you rest, do no work, take time to see God in new fresh ways? God commands us to do just that. We need it. Our bodies need it. Our souls need it.
“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you” (Deut. 5:12, ESV)