My seven year old, Collins, is a good athlete, and his passion is baseball. He reached base every single at bat last year! Now, the errors in the field were insanely high, but still! At his age I was happy just to go home with some dirt on my pants. Each season our kids can pick one activity and this fall, no surprise, Collins chose baseball. We logged on to register and saw the games this season are on Sunday. Not Sunday mornings, Sunday afternoons. I love watching Collins play baseball more than he enjoys playing. Even so, we made the difficult decision not to play.
Right now, my non-Christian friends are thinking, “Man, Jim has become a really weird Christian!” and many of my Christian friends are thinking, “Man, Jim has become a really weird Christian!” Stay with me for a minute.
The Christian Sabbath is a debated issue. In my small world of Reformed Christianity alone, there are six different views on the Sabbath. We don’t even agree on whether or not it exists anymore! Of all the grey areas of what is permissible on Sundays, recreation issues are the greyest. They are grey because they are unclear. Because they are unclear, we should feel freedom to disagree (Col. 2:16, Romans 14:4). I wouldn’t force our decision on anyone and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel bad if their conscience has led them to a different conclusion.
This post is not an exhaustive teaching on the Sabbath (for that see John Frame’s Doctrine of The Christian Life). It is simply my family’s thought process on this issue. It does, however, apply to almost any view of the Sabbath.
Rest Frees Us Up For Worship
Rest is the primary call of the Sabbath/Lord’s Day. That rest frees us up to worship with our church family. 21st century American culture worships many things. At the top of the list are children and sports. We simply want the lines to be clear about what we are being freed up to worship and we want to protect ourselves from the temptation to cross that line.
If it was a special game that only happened once or twice and wouldn’t interfere with church, I could maybe be talked into it. But an every Sunday obligation is more than we are comfortable with.
All Rest Is Worship
We worship in our rest. In stepping back from our work in the field, in the office, in our yard or on the internet, we are showing that we trust God. We trust that He will provide for us as we stop working. Resting is a way God has designed the rhythm of this life to refocus us on Him (Mark 2:27).
Our family is busy. Two jobs, four kids, kids activities, church and seminary. We need rest, but we don’t always see that need. Without a command to rest we would see Sunday as a way to be more efficient. But when we let go of our desire for efficiency and instead rest, trusting that God will work in our inefficiency, that is a form of worship.
As we rest from baseball, we trust God that He has activities for Collins to enjoy playing and for us to enjoy watching outside of fall baseball. We trust that Collins won’t lose the skills necessary to jump back in one day. This fall it’s swim team. Who knows? Maybe this will be the way God shows us swimming is the sport for Collins.
Sunday Is A Feast Not A Fast
I took that phrase from John Frame. Sunday isn’t a time we deprive ourselves of something, it’s a time we delight in pleasures the busy week steals from us. We feast on worship, family meals, games with the kids, naps, reading, walking, hiking and more.
John Murray, in his book Principles of Conduct says this:
I would suggest that if we kept the Sabbath as Christians then our lives would improve dramatically. How many of us never do an in-depth study of God’s Word for lack of time? How many of us never visit the lonely or the sick for lack of time? How many of us begin the week exhausted for lack of rest? How much time do we spend in prayer and evangelism? The Lord has made provision for all these things by giving a Sabbath to his people.
We want to feast. It is easy to mistake entertainment for feasting. Baseball is great, but there are even better things out there we want to feast on.
He Learns More From Not Playing
Our hope is that Collins learns more from not playing than playing. We hope he sees the value of a family game of Clue or Sleeping Queens, the value of a long nap on Sunday afternoon, the value of a family lunch, the value of an old movie or the value of throwing the baseball in the park as a family.
More than anything, we hope he sees a sweet picture of the gospel. In resting, the gospel is proclaimed. In our sin, God doesn’t call us to work harder. He calls us to stop working and trust in Him to do the work for us. Salvation comes through rest and in rest we glory in our salvation.
How far does the circle of resting extend? I don’t know exactly. The filter we have begun to use is Christmas. Christmas is the best all stop day we have in our calendar. Maybe the fourth of July for some. On these days we take the time to truly feast and enjoy the best things. Would we sign up for a little league game on Christmas? No. Would anyone be wrong if they did? No.
For now though, we rest from baseball.