Sabbath Rest, a Choice, or a Command?

Sabbath Rest, a Choice, or a Command?

An older human influence in my Spiritual journey died recently.  His name is Robert Collins and he was an associate minister in the old Worldwide Church of God, the first minister in that church I ever met, although I had associations with some of its members firstly.  I well remember the time I met him at a Shoney’s restaurant in the West End of Birmingham, AL probably in about 1968 while I was attending Samford University.  The Worldwide Church of God in those days was classified as a cult, but they were Sabbitarian, (observing the 7th Day Sabbath, Saturday) and also were a pacifist roots church.  Both Sabbitarianism and their Peace roots were inherited from the Church of God, 7th, Day which had split off from 7th Day Adventism in the late 1800s in disagreement over the inspired writings of Ellen G. White.  In the time of the Vietnam war, I was forming my beliefs about Peace and Nonviolence.

In those days the Radio was kind of like the Internet today, and I as a formative teenager had developed some of my beliefs listening to the religious programming of the day, including the broadcasts of Herbert W. Armstrong, the authoritarian and charismatic leader of that group.  After chance connections with some of the young Worldwide Church of God (now Grace Communion International) members in those days I felt I was being called to believe in observing the Sabbath, and changing my life from the selfish, deceitful, arrogant, and sinful way of life I had generally kept hidden from others views….  So I thought….

My personal history is not what I want to talk about right now, nor my conversion experiences which have lasted many years and still continue.

At the same time I heard of the recent death of Robert Collins, I have been reading “The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate”, by John H. Walton.

Although only a single point of this book, Mr. Walton thinks the Sabbath would be a useful reinstatement in the Christian Church, one that we would do well to choose.  He believes the Creation story reflects that the Sabbath, or 7th Day of Genesis was a day when God entered His Temple to rest and to rule the Universe.  He believes Genesis is written to the culture it addressed in functional terms, not material terms…  When God says It is Good, it means basically it works as intended…  In various parts of this book are references to the Sabbath, understandably, because the 7th Day is a part of Creation week and our origins…..  I am not writing this to discuss the book, although it is a good read, especially for those who are new earth people and read the Bible in literalist terms and would like to examine another viewpoint…..

In view of the above, and my life journey to this point, I want to ask……

Is the Sabbath a choice?  Many think it is a command, not a choice…  After all, it is one of the Ten Commandments……  So, it is a command, right?  However, we will just ignore it because it is not convenient to observe it on Saturday, in conflict with our culture….

I had been reared in the Roman Catholic Church and understood a high view of the 10 commandments.  My relatives chose not to work on Sunday because that was the Sabbath…  Actually, they worked anyway, since they had farm animals and had to take care of them, but it was their practice not to actually do farming on Sunday.  Much to my surprise I found the Sabbath is actually on Saturday, not Sunday….  In my desire to obey God, I wrestled with this matter for quite a while…  I had met with Robert Collins and Paul Liverman, who accompanied him when I would meet with him…  I would ask my religion professors at Samford about it…  I would read obvious references in the book of Romans and other New Testament books about the observance of days, times, and seasons….  Neither Robert Collins, nor my Samford religion professors, nor anyone, for that matter, could solve this Cognitive Dissonance I carried around for a while.  In the end I chose to obey the 10 Commandments….  Right choice, obviously… Correct?

Not so fast……

In fact it was from the years of 1969 until 1994, 25 years, that I observed the Sabbath, mostly, as a matter of personal conscience…..  Not very fast, one could say…. 25 years… I value those years as my less than perfect attempt to please God…  I will support anyone who makes that choice…

What happened?

Actually, I now believe that the Sabbath is a choice….   I came to an understanding of Grace AND Peace that I just wrote about recently….  I understand that we are not under the law, (10 commandments, etc.) given only to Israel, and NOT anyone else, nor under the law and the prophets, for that matter, but under Grace…..  Adam and Eve were not under the law either, since the Law was given by Moses, many years later.  New Testament Christians are not under the law either, but under Faith.  After all, wasn’t the law given 438 years after Faith, exhibited by Abraham?

Maybe that is why we see Jesus breaking the Sabbath and doing other things not approved by the law….  It makes me think…. Jesus says, Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest…  (referencing the original Sabbath, resting with God in His temple)….  It is a command?  Is it a choice?

I believe God wants us willingly to come to the point we really, really want to rest in Him, to worship Him, not just because we think we have to, but because we really, really want to….  He beacons us to do this…  He draws us to himself….. I believe this is why Sabbath is mentioned in the Genesis Garden…..  God wants to walk with us in our Garden…  He wants to rest with mankind, live in Peace with mankind, and wanted to so badly that He sent Jesus to die for us that we might come to Him and enter into His rest……

A good choice….  If you think it is a command, then do it, and continue to do it 25 years, or all your life, or however long it takes to realize the Cosmological Origins how much God really loves us and how much He is for us, not against us, and has a hope and a future in mind for ALL mankind….

If you think it is a choice, then choose it…. Maybe not literally every Saturday, but some Saturdays, maybe for just half a day on Saturday, or half a day on Sunday, or Friday, for that matter, or every day, if possible….  Let us Rest with God, accept His Peace, walk in His Garden….  I should also mention that He rests in us also, as we are the temple of His Spirit….

As for Robert Collins, there is no choice now, but, may he rest in Peace, as we all will one day will do….  Concerning the point that God rested in His Temple, on the 7th Day…. Now He rests in us, dwells in us, rules the Universe partially through us, the original intention of the original origins, that we would dress and keep the earth, and all creatures in it, including human beings, might I add…  Do not Kill them, but is that also a command, or a choice?  Which is it?  Where is our brother, Abel?  Origins… A lot to think about, cosmologically….

Rest and Peace,

John Cooper

Grace AND Peace

Re-coupling Grace and Peace

I often wonder if Christianity would be more effective if it returned to its Historic Roots….

I got to thinking about all this again, as I am wont to do….  It seems to me that a foundational problem in Christianity is the de-coupling of what seemed to be a very important association by the Apostle Paul, as well as Peter and John, concerning Grace AND Peace.  Many greetings are dressed with the term grace and peace….

It seems both Grace and Peace together were very important as a pair in the early Christian Church as seeds of the Kingdom of God and the Gospel, including the Gospel of Peace were preached….  Maybe it was because they had warfare back then….  Maybe because a commitment to Grace and Peace and refusing to worship the Emperor and the military-political systems of the day could result in becoming lion feed……  Don’t we have warfare now also?

Some are aware of my concerns for Peace, Social Justice, and Nonviolence….  I believe we find all three of these concerns as also concerns of the Early Christian church up until around 170 AD, at which time the teachings of the foundational fathers of the church dimmed, and in Ca. 320 AD, the Christian church allied with Constantine and became the official Roman religion.

Since that time, it seems the subject of Grace has been well studied, and preached, partially by the less than perfect and less than grace filled individuals such as Martin Luther and Calvin….  As far as I know, those adhering to nonviolence, such as the early Anabaptists, were actually persecuted and even killed for their beliefs, often by the very “Christians” who espoused the Grace of God most adamantly… (I have the book, “Martyr’s Mirror”, for instance, that chronicles some of these events.)  So were the Muslims, for that matter….. How about the Jews also????  So were they…. And, the Aztecs, to whom it was agreed they were cannibals, so we could kill them…  I hate to bring this up, but; Where are all the American Indians?

Has anything really changed, even today in our largely Post Christian society?  When we think of Grace, how many of us think of Grace AND Peace?  If we study the Gospel of Grace so much, why not also study the Gospel of Peace?  Now, I like Grace a lot, but I also like Peace….  I recall the word of the Poem, “Fire and Ice”, by Robert Frost…

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great,

And would suffice.

Therefore, not for destruction, but for living eternally, it seems to me that if I can like Grace, and I can also like Peace….

For perishing people, (and all of us are perishing…) all of us who from birth have believed in the Myth of Redemptive Violence, from the God of Babylon, Marduk, on to the cartoons of Popeye and Pluto, to the solution to Evil offered by this world’s fallen governments, that is, we can solve violence, we can solve Evil, by killing it….  That fallen philosophy was not that of Jesus, nor of the Early Christian church…  The Jesus who suffered and died to defeat Evil.  The early Christian Church who followed in Jesus’ steps, also suffering and dying to defeat Evil, seemed to believe also in this other way, the way of peace and nonviolence.  Grace, AND Peace, if you will….

Why, we Christians actually consider it once per year, on average, and make some mention of it, generally around the Christmas season, we manage to add Peace to our vocabulary….  Grace, all the time, we need it.., but Peace, well… we do not seem to need it so much….

Therefore, let us call out today, for the Christian Church (and all people, for that matter) to return to Christianity’s Historic Roots, and to re-couple both Grace AND Peace.  Perhaps is so doing, we will regain the respect of unbelievers who see this separation of Grace and Peace, to be inconsistent with the ethics of Jesus, even if most of Christianity appears not to see this inconsistency, and blindly goes on in the systems of the world with which it is most comfortable.

Grace AND Peace,

John Cooper

Whose Business is It?

Whose Business is it?

This is a plea to our President, and others whose business it is assumed to be….

Whose business is it?

Is it your business to deliver us from Evil? Is it your business to enlist us in preemptive wars to kill and defeat our perceived enemies? Is it your business to spend our monetary resources of past and future generations by going into indebtedness to conquer Evil? If so, how is it working out for you?

I am reminded of an ancient prayer, now nearly 2,000 years old, spoken by those to whom many Christians declare their allegiance, primary allegiance, one would hope….

“Deliver us from Evil….”

It is a simple prayer, indeed, addressed to the one God of the universe to whom the allegiance of Jews, Christians, and Muslims all alike respect and claim to serve…

“Deliver us from Evil…”

Yes, we say this prayer, but do we really believe the God of the Universe has, or will actually “Deliver us from Evil”?

Do we not, by our actions, say and prefer to deliver ourselves from Evil? Do we not prefer to prepare our own guns, nuclear arsenals, and our minds steeped in our world’s influences, to deliver ourselves from Evil? If not, why spend Trillions of dollars and other monetary currencies in such preparedness to deliver our own selves form Evil?

At this time, August 19, 2011, the world apparently teeters on the brink of financial disaster, not being able to pay its debts to the future…. Can we ask this simple question?

In whom do we trust?

The United States has actually printed trillions of times, “In God we Trust”…


Is God the one in whom we trust?

If so, how about trusting Him to: “Deliver us from Evil”

The Christian proclaimers of the Kingdom of God, NOT of this world, would all hopefully agree in unison with our fellow Jewish and Islamic human beings, and all others created in God’s image, even including our enemies….

God, “Deliver us from Evil…”

God, we trust that you have already, do presently, and will in the future, “Deliver us from Evil..”

Some sensible people, although some would say, not so sensible, cry out…

“Whose business is it?”

It is God’s business to deliver us from Evil…

Some will say that God helps us to deliver ourselves from Evil, that we are to use our own logic and everything in our power as well as trust God to “Deliver us from Evil…” I cannot argue with that, and one would have to set one’s own limits of how far we might go in protecting ourselves and our families, but whatever the decision for oneself, and one’s community, for one”s city, for ones State, and for ones respective nation, and for the whole world, for that matter, we must come to the point eventually, do we actually trust God to “Deliver us from Evil”, or not?

If we do trust God, could we possibly reemploy some of our military resources and equipment to deliver food to Somalia, for instance? From a business point of view, would not this be more our business, to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, give comfort to the sick, to dress and keep the earth, and turn our swords effectively into plowshares? Maybe this would help cut the debt of the world if we give up so much trusting in ourselves to protect ourselves from Evil, and trust in God to:

“Deliver us from Evil”

John Cooper