Not of Fear, But of Love
Dear Church members:
I want to share with you a quote from Christianity Today, authors Walter Kim and Timothy Dalrymple -
“In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus challenged the contemporary understanding of the Sabbath. When his disciples had picked grain for food on the Sabbath, Jesus responded to the Pharisees’ criticism by saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27–28). Jesus later applied this statement about the Sabbath to a situation of service.
Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. (Mark 3:1–5)
Jesus reminded the worshipers that a critical dimension of Sabbath involved care for the needy and vulnerable in society. He healed on the Sabbath, because healing is an appropriate thing to do on the Sabbath.
Sabbath observance was never just about what worshipers gained personally, but also what they gave communally. Sabbath encompassed the well-being of others. In Deuteronomy 5:12–15, the Israelites were instructed to observe the Sabbath by not working and also not allowing others to work. In the ancient world, it was astounding to be commanded to regularly release your household, servants, animals, and even the immigrant workers and refugees from work. Sabbath answered on a weekly basis the age-old question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes! We are called to ensure the flourishing of those within our sphere of influence.
With fresh power and unique authority, the Lord of the Sabbath applied the prophetic connection between worship and service. We hear echoes of Isaiah’s declaration of true fasting in acts of justice for the hungry and poor (58:6–7), of Micah’s concern for true sacrifice in expressing mercy (6:6–8), and of Amos’ lyrical entreaty for festivals of worship to be coupled with rivers of righteousness (5:21–24).
The teachings on Sabbath as an occasion of healing and service as an aspect of worship provide guidance for us on the question of whether or not to make religious services remote. It is lawful to do good and not to do harm, to save life and not to kill. Churches for thousands of years all around the world have had to find creative ways to worship. By physical distancing, the church practices preventative healing to mitigate the spread of a deadly virus. This would seem to be not only lawful but loving. We cancel physical gatherings not because we fear a virus but because we love the vulnerable and care for the world God loves. We remember that healing—both spiritual and physical—are aspects of worship.”
Love and Prayers,