John Mark Comer: Sabbath Observance Helps You Eliminate Hurry

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry" by John Mark Comer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How does a weekly holiday sound to you? What might you learn from Jesus about keeping the Sabbath?

According to John Mark Comer, Sabbath observance is an excellent way to follow the example of Jesus and slow down your pace of life. He discusses how Jesus honored the Sabbath and shares ways that you can observe and enjoy it.

Keep reading to understand how to honor the Sabbath as Jesus did.

John Mark Comer on Sabbath Observance

According to John Mark Comer, Sabbath observance allows you to slow down for a full day every week. The Sabbath provides an opportunity to take a break from your usual, rushed routine (such as work and chores) so you can engage in slow-paced, meaningful, and spiritual experiences.

(Shortform note: Across several cultures and religions, people devote at least one day of the week to intentionally slowing down and engaging in meaningful, spiritual activities. For example, many Jewish people observe Shabbat, a stretch of time (usually from Friday to Saturday evening) spent enjoying a special meal and engaging in prayer and blessings. Some who observe Shabbat also refrain from work and chores, such as shopping, on these days.)

We’ll begin this section by exploring why Jesus honored the Sabbath, as you may be inspired by his example. Then, we’ll discuss how you can best honor the Sabbath.

How Jesus Honored the Sabbath

The Gospels reveal that Jesus regularly honored the Sabbath. According to Comer, Jesus did so for multiple reasons. First, he did so to obey God’s commandment. One of God’s Ten Commandments is “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). By “keeping it holy,” God meant taking a break from your typical routine to spend the day worshiping him. 

(Shortform note: In The Purpose Driven Life, Pastor Rick Warren says that obeying God goes hand-in-hand with trusting God: It’s easier to obey God’s commandments if you trust that he knows what’s best for you and has a plan for you. In this case, trusting that God believes it’s good for you to break from your typical routine will help you honor the Sabbath day.)

Second, Jesus honored the Sabbath to experience enjoyment. When the Pharisees critiqued Jesus and his followers for how they spent their Sabbath, Jesus replied, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Comer interprets this line to mean that God created the Sabbath as a gift for us to enjoy.

(Shortform note: Comer doesn’t explore the full context for this line—why did the Pharisees critique the way Jesus and his followers spent their Sabbath? According to one Christian author, the Pharisees were known for enforcing strict rules for how to spend the Sabbath. They objected to how Jesus and his followers spent one particular Sabbath: walking through fields and gathering grain to enjoy eating. Prior to saying “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” Jesus reminded the Pharisees of the time when David ate and shared bread that only high priests were permitted to eat. Then Jesus told the Pharisees that David’s choice wasn’t unlawful because he was taking care of himself and others. Thus, Jesus implied that he resisted worship focused on rules, instead preferring worship focused on enjoyment and self-care.)

Third, Jesus honored the Sabbath to continue a tradition of resisting oppression. The Old Testament explains this connection between honoring the Sabbath and fighting oppression: Moses delivers the Ten Commandments to an audience of slaves who escaped Egypt, and the commandment about the Sabbath reads: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15). According to Comer’s interpretation of this passage, this commandment frames rest as a form of resistance against oppression.

Resting as a Form of Resistance Against Racial Oppression

In Rest Is Resistance, poet and activist Tricia Hersey echoes this idea that resting is a strategy for resisting oppression, and she explores how this message is particularly relevant to people of color.

First, Hersey explains that people of color are especially in need of rest. She explains that white supremacy and capitalism exploit people of color as a means to increase production, both historically (such as through chattel slavery) and today—for example, consider how people of color are overrepresented in low-wage jobs. This exploitation leaves people of color exhausted spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Hersey frames rest as a way to resist this exploitation. She explains that while she was in seminary school, she learned that her body is a “deep reflection of God” and that she must treat her body well by resting properly. She says that people of color can treat their bodies well and resist the systems that exploit them by demanding rest. This might mean, for example, carving out time for regular naps or saying “no” when asked to take on too many responsibilities.

How to Honor the Sabbath

How can you honor the Sabbath, as Jesus did? Comer says you should make it the most enjoyable day of the week, one you consistently look forward to. By making the Sabbath enjoyable, you’ll want to observe it, and it’ll feel easier to observe. For example, spend your Sabbath praying to God, tending your garden, listening to your favorite Christian rock album, or enjoying a slow-paced meal with members of your parish.

How Easy and Fun Should It Be to Follow Jesus?

Comer offers strategies that make it easier and more fun to follow Jesus’s habits, such as using gamification to slow your daily tempo and ensuring the Sabbath is an enjoyable day.

Comer’s emphasis on fun and ease contrasts with the approach of some other Christian pastors. For instance, in The Cost of Discipleship, pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that Christians should follow Jesus by voluntarily adopting difficult lifestyles. He explains that Christ’s life was characterized by suffering, and therefore the best way to follow him is to mimic his suffering. For instance, Bonhoeffer recommends that Christians voluntarily fast and commit to a life of poverty.

While this suffering is meant to be difficult, Bonhoeffer says that it improves your life. First, suffering makes you more virtuous. By denying yourself pleasures (such as food), you’ll improve your capacity for resisting the temptation to sin. Second, suffering makes you less worried. By living a life of poverty, for instance, you’ll free yourself from the fear of loss. If you lack material possessions, you don’t have to worry that a disaster (such as war or a house fire) could destroy what you hold dear.

Despite these differences, Comer’s and Bonhoeffer’s approaches also overlap. For instance, both pastors emphasize the importance of developing a personal relationship with God through prayer.
John Mark Comer: Sabbath Observance Helps You Eliminate Hurry

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry summary:

  • Our cultural obsession with rushing and how it's harmful in many ways
  • How to stop rushing by deepening your Christian spiritual practice
  • How to carve out more time for your spiritual practice

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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