Rule #24: Have Fun

When teaching young children (in the 6-12 years range) it's important to give a very basic set of ground rules for a smooth lesson and activity time. As children tend to have short attention spans and unusually poor memories when it comes to rules it's important to be brief. So many of the settings I've been a part of choose these 3 rules. 1. When I'm talking no one else is talking. 2. Be respectful (no hitting, stealing, or bad words). 3. Have fun. The most important thing you can convey to a child that has been bound by rules is the goal of the rules is to have fun. To enjoy the experience of learning.

I truly believe that God has the same philosophy when working with us. He made a simple set of rules we call the 10 commandments. And guess what Rule #4 is: "Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy" [Exodus 20:8]. The pharisees and seduces in the new testament made this commandment a huge burden to carry. You could do very little on the Sabbath. Traveling was restricted. People were expected to always be at the temple. Even acts of charity were not permitted. But Jesus was constantly showing them a better way. He says the "The Sabbath was made for man" [Mark 2:27]. The Sabbath was never about being perfect for a day or refusing to work in order to have a day at church. The Sabbath is a day to rest, to have fun and restore strength for the next week. Not a day of strict rules but a day of freedom from obligation.

In high school and collage as I was learning more about scripture and theology I saw this constant debate about what to do with old testament law. A debate that has existed from the moment Jesus died to today and will likely continue on. The debate is generally Paul vs. James. Paul says you are free from all law. James says obeying the precepts of the law are proof of your freedom. Ultimately I latched onto one scripture separating the Spirit of the law vs the letter of the law [Romans 7]. The idea is every law has a hard strict line drawn in the sand. If you cross the line you have done wrong. This is the letter of the law. A rule may say "Eat Healthy". The letter of the law means never again eat a candy bar, or cheeseburger, or potato chips, etc. But the spirit of the law is very different. It means at the end of the day your overall diet results in a healthy human. A single candy bar does not cause any damage. A dozen candy bars probably will. The difference is when you follow the letter eating becomes a burden to life instead of a gift that God has given us to enjoy life. Eating healthy can be and should be an overall enjoyable experience. So while the observing the Sabbath is not strictly required under New Testament living the original law had a real purpose. A purpose deeper than everyone sitting at home and praying for one day a week. A purpose called rest, a purpose called fun. Nehemiah 8:10 "The joy of the LORD is your strength" is a highly quoted scripture in my circles of influence. I rarely go a week without seeing it written or hearing it spoken somewhere. Yet the quoted portion is only 20% of the actual verse. I like the first part of this verse "eat the fat, drink the sweat" [Nehemiah 8:10]. These words may sound odd but basically mean drink the sweet, celebratory, good wine like Jesus made at the wedding of Cana instead of the sour and bland wine that is the daily staple. It means eat the fatty rib-eye cut instead of the low-fat cuts of meat mixed into a bland soup. It means use leaven in the bread. It means party, have fun, and celebrate. Contextually the "joy of the LORD" is having fun. Actual fun, with good food, music, dancing, or whatever else helps you let loose and relax and rest. May paraphrase of this scripture is "Party like theirs no tomorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

I've found through personal experience that a Sabbath of this nature is not just healthy, restoring your strength and joy, it's also necessary. It lead me to develop a saying. If you don't take a Sabbath the Sabbath will take you. It's the alternative name of this rule. If I spend weeks without taking a day of rest I get burned-out, sick, and injured. Usually resulting in my getting nothing accomplished for several days. It doesn't always add up perfectly of course but skipping my often Sabbath results in losing the time I would have spent resting on recovering. An old missions coordinator I served under used to tell all of his missionaries "Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is sleep". This was usually following an evening of long, intense prayer by a hundred or so missionaries who have given weeks or months of their lives to save the lost. Every person in that room is thinking, "after this is over I can continue praying in my cabin". But our leader knew wisdom. Instead we would sleep. We would maintain our health, our vigor, our energy so we could hit the ground running hard the next day.