The New Testament uses many words and images to describe believers in Jesus. We are, according to the Bible, saints; children; beloved; the church; and so on. But we are also strangers. Aliens. Citizens of a different kingdom.
This last series of terms feels ever more relevant. We live in changing times and in shifting cultures where morality and ethics are fluid in all respects, ebbing and flowing with the opinions of the times. Amidst all this flux, the Christian is different. Not just different because they hold often contrary values to these norms, but different because they stand. They are stable. They don’t move because the source of these values, ethics, and even identity is stable. So in the midst of the world, we are the strangers. Those who live here and yet represent a different kingdom.
Now part of living here, of course, involves the recognition of authority that has been put in place by God. Ever respectful, Christians are meant to submit to those governing authorities in so much as we are able in order to live quiet, peaceful, and productive lives right where we are. At the same time, though, we are meant to be ambassadors of that other kingdom, and in doing so, we are at the same time rebels. We are rebels because we believe differently. Behave differently. Live differently. And it’s in those differences we find the rebellion, not in the sense that we are hostile, but in the sense that we are willing to stand against the current.
There are, of course, all different kinds of issues in which these differences – these quiet rebellions – are clear. Issues about the sanctity of life, of the nature of marriage, of how we spend or don’t spend money – these hot button issues are the ones we typically think of when we think about Christians as rebels. But here is one more way that we, as Christians rebel – one way that is a little more under the radar.
The practice of taking a day of rest and dedicating it to the Lord was first practiced by God on the seventh day of creation, and then codified by His very hand when He etched out the Ten Commandments:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates. For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy” (Ex. 20:8-11).
Simple enough, right? But it’s important for us to realize that for the Christian, the Sabbath isn’t just a day of rest, but a condition we enter into:
“Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience” (Heb. 4:9-11).
The kind of rest described here isn’t so much an isolated instance but a state of being that’s lived inside of. The day we take of rest, then, becomes a reminder of the state of rest we can enter into because of Jesus. But that’s also the key to understanding why the practice of Sabbath is an act of rebellion.
We live in a culture of achievement. Of self-validation. Of constant efforts to prove your own worthiness to anyone who happens to be looking. But when you rest – really rest – you aren’t producing anything. You aren’t validating anything. You are instead finding your source of validation, identity, and worth in something other than what you produce. Instead, we know that true rest only comes from trusting and living in the finished work of Christ on our behalf. In this, as with so many other things, we stand apart from our culture, and the practice of rest becomes another act of rebellion.
When we rest in the gospel, we ironically fight against the culture. We rebel because we refuse to find our validation in that which the world says validates us. So rest, Christian, and in so doing, fight.