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The Sojourners’ Rest

The Sojourners’ Rest

We Need Sabbath,” declared the bold headline in Sojourners, a Christian magazine noted for its progressive stance and mission for social justice. 

It’s a topic that has been appearing with increasing frequency in the media, both secular and religious.

This piece, however, written by Rachel Anderson, a lawyer and a family-leave advocate, is distinct in its appeal to not the individual but the collective body. As its subtitle reads: “Holy rest is only possible in community.”

That’s a pretty substantial claim.

A Cancer Diagnosis

But let’s back up and trace through Anderson’s testimony to see how she came to this conclusion.

The catalyst, unfortunately, was her breast cancer diagnosis in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the immediate challenges it brought regarding management of work, family, and sudden medical needs. In a stroke of unwanted irony, the issues with which she helped others had, in one doctor visit, become her issue.

“I had not prepared,” she wrote, “for an illness requiring rest and extensive treatment. … Needing to not work was barely imaginable.”

The culprit, for Anderson, was what she dubbed the American “meritocratic ideology[, which] suggests that overwork is a natural condition and possibly even a virtuous one.” She went on to compare America’s “stingy benefits system” with that of other countries: The United States doesn’t “[guarantee] paid sick leave”; the United States “fails to guarantee paid leave to new parents.” She cited a recent study by “economist Isabel V. Sawhill and researcher Katherine Guyot[, which estimated] that average middle-class married parents in the U.S. now work, collectively, 600 more hours per year than did a comparable couple in 1975—that’s two and a half months more.”

This isn’t anything we don’t already know. For instance, Fortune magazine ran a 2016 article on a “study [which] found that, on average, Europeans work fewer hours than Americans do. According to the paper, Americans work nearly 25% more hours than Europeans. In other words, that’s an additional 258 hours per year or an hour more each weekday.” 

What is interesting, though, in the current state of our world, is the regular exposing of the shortcomings of “living to work.” The pandemic, and one of its aftereffects the Great Resignation, blatantly displayed that. More and more people are catching onto and, more importantly, acting upon the reality that there is more to life than just working around the clock—including Anderson. She acquired a newfound love for a day of rest.

But she also took it a step further.

“American culture is biased toward work, earnings, and production, with less social signaling in support of time spent in cultural, recreational, and relational activities or at rest,” she concluded. She wasn’t given a “cultural cue that sanctioned rest” until she received her cancer diagnosis. The society she lived in did not give her “permission to rest” when she was healthy. It was only when her “job” changed to simply “remain alive” that she recognized the need for rest—and that rest was, for her, a “life-saving shift.”

The solution Anderson seemed to strongly infer was a corporate shift in the American—if not the human—mindset, one that lauded, facilitated, and advocated for “the social permission to rest.” As she stated, “Time for rest should be predictable, trustworthy, and universal.”

A Communal Thing

One important detail needs mentioning: In the article, Anderson made known that her holy day of rest is Sunday. Though she, a Lutheran, recounted learning about the Sabbath commandment and even discussed the account in Exodus 16 of the Israelites refraining from gathering manna “on the seventh day,” her belief is that the Sabbath day falls on the first day of the week.

This is a clear contradiction to the fourth commandment, which states, in part: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work” (Exodus 20:8–10). The one day that God specifically sanctified for mankind is the seventh day, Saturday: “Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (v. 11).

Having ignored this crucial difference, Anderson then emphasized that God made Sabbath observance “a social instruction,” that is, the Israelites were required to keep the Sabbath as a people. This is true, but it is fallacious to superimpose the rules of a voluntary theocracy, such as the one by which the Israelites were governed, onto a manmade secular state, such as America. For an eye-opening look at the merits of the “Separation of Church and State,” check out our free article.

Rest is undoubtedly beneficial to the human race, but sanctioning it in a secular society is not the answer. What, then, would be the implications if “holy rest” can be achieved only “in community”? Does that mean that a person cannot truly rest unless everyone else finds that rest socially acceptable or is resting themselves? Is that responsibility to be laid on the community or the friend circle or even the nation? And what if the collective public doesn’t choose this “life-saving” rest of their own free will? Does that mean, then, that there must be some kind of mandate enacted for this rest—for everyone’s own good?

Bible prophecy actually points to the passing of such a law. See for yourself in “Bowing to Babylon.

The truth is that God is looking upon each individual heart, at the decisions that each individual makes. “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15, emphasis added), the Bible instructs. It is your personal choice whether to follow God or not. We invite you to prayerfully consider your decision in “5 Reasons Why God Said Remember.” 

This article contributed by Clifford Goldstein
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