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Keep it in proper perspective

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What we believe

What do Mennonite Brethren believe? Does our theology have any emphases that are different from the theology of other Christian denominations? We continue our series looking at our new Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith, approved at the last North American MB Conference convention in 1999, and what it means for the average church member. Writer for the series is Reuben Pauls, pastor of River of Life Community Church in Sorrento, B.C., and former Canadian MB Conference executive minister.

Article 16: Work, rest and the Lord’s Day

MB Confession of Faith

A question often heard is this: Is it possible to keep work and leisure in proper perspective? A question which follows in our churches is: “What is appropriate activity for a Sunday?”

These were big questions when I was growing up as a small child in northern Saskatchewan. Why was it implied that playing ball on a Sunday afternoon was sinful? Was all fun forbidden? Behind these childhood questions is a bigger one-What does it mean to “keep the Lord’s Day holy”?

Like the rest of our Confession, Article 16 focuses on principles, but steers away from legalistic pronouncements. One of those underlying principles is that every day is the Lord’s Day. We stop short of saying that Sunday is the only day where worship and “limited work” apply. We accept the biblical teaching on the Sabbath and the early church practice of observing Sunday as the day on which Christ rose from the dead as our reasons for setting aside a special day for worship. One question we do not address in this Article is: What are the elements of worship which are appropriate for a Sunday lifestyle?

Another question the Article does not spell out in detail is: What activities fall into the category of “work of necessity and deeds of mercy”? Does shift work by the sole wage earner fall into “work of necessity”? If I see my work as an expression of worship, does that make working on Sunday acceptable?

This Article does a good service in linking work and rest to God’s creative activity. When we appreciate that we are made in God’s image and see work as a reflection of who God is, we realize we should not think of work as drudgery. Further, when work is seen as a positive celebration of creation, and rest is one component of a balanced life, words such as “burnout” and “workaholic” sound strangely out of place.

Words such as “diligently”, “faithfully”, “respect” and “dignity” connect what we do to earn a living with who we are as disciples. How we work is a reflection of and witness to our Christian faith. As a teenager, I had a boss, a young businessman, who taught and modelled well. On one occasion, he took me aside and said something like this: “As a Christian, your job is to do the best you can for your employer. If that’s your goal, you’ll never have to worry about what you earn.” He also practised that. While working for him, I always felt appreciated and well paid.

Restoring a proper perspective to work, rest and the Lord’s Day provides us with a structure for life. When we embrace a balance, it enhances relationships, self-worth and Christian witness.


Work, Rest and the Lord’s Day

As God rested on the seventh day, people are called to observe regular times of rest. Rest is an act of thankfulness for what God has provided.
It is an act of trust, reminding humans that it is not their work but God who sustains them. Rest is an act of hope, anticipating the future rest assured by the resurrection of Jesus.

The Lord’s Day

Following the New Testament example, believers gather to commemorate the resurrection of Christ on the first day of the week. On the Lord’s day, believers joyfully devote themselves to worship, instruction in the Word, prayer, breaking of bread, fellowship and service. They limit their labor to work of necessity and deeds of mercy.
Genesis 1:26-2:3; Genesis 2:15; Genesis 3:14-19; Exodus 20:8-11; Leviticus 25:1-7; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Psalm 46:10; Psalm 95:6-11; Ecclesiastes 3:13; Mark 2:23-3:6; Luke 24:1-36; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 20:7; Romans 14:5-10; I Corinthians 16:2; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 2:16-17; Colossians 3:22-4:1; II Thessalonians 3:6-10; Hebrews 4:1-10; Hebrews 10:23-25; Revelation 1:10.

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