6 January 2008

Freedom to rest

Some people think that following Jesus will restrict their freedom. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Jesus is the one who sets us free from all sorts of things (and people) who have us in their grip. To obey Jesus is to be set free from their control over us.

An example of this freedom is the freedom to rest. This is God’s gift to us of “Sabbath”. What’s that? When God’s people Israel were slaves in Egypt, they were under forced labour. There was no let up… no rest. As slaves, they were not free to take a day off work.

But when God set Israel free from Egypt, he enshrined in their law a day of rest – a “sabbath” day. Under his government – with God as King – there was one day a week when everyone took a rest, from work and the pressure of busy lives. Mind you, it was not just a day ‘off work’. It was also a day on which you spent some time remembering the good God who had set you free!

How does this work for us? Well we are not bound by law to take a Sabbath rest each week. But the principle of ‘sabbath’ continues as we come under the rule of Christ by becoming Christians. And we are to enjoy the freedom we have been given by him

In fact, a great way for Christians to demonstrate their freedom under Christ is to say ‘NO’ to the many things that make demands on our time and energy. Christ has set us free to say ‘no’ to them, and to set aside time to rest from them and to remember the good God who set us free.

That’s why it’s a good practice for Christians to set aside time each day to spend quietly reading the Bible and praying to God. That’s why it’s good for Christians to set aside one day a week – a day on which we are free to meet together as Christians to remember and worship together the good God who set us free.

It requires a firm (but gracious) dealing with whoever or whatever would rob us of our freedom – employers, family, children, the leisure industry, shops, TV – only you know what it is that has such a grip on your life that you are not free to spend an hour with God each day, and a morning with God’s people on a Sunday.

Jesus has set us free. It just takes a bit of self-control, and control of the diary, to enjoy the freedom he has afforded us.

Why not make it your aim this year to enjoy your freedom to rest?

Simon Smallwood
Vicar of St George’s