Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work... Ex 20:8-9 (NIV)
The writer was one of a medical delegation which visited the People's Republic of China, spending 17 days in five provincial capitals. Beijing (formerly Peking) is divided into seven zones, each of which has its own day of rest. Moving from centre to centre, visiting hospitals and being involved in scientific exchanges as well as sight-seeing, left us with no break at all. By the end of the second week we were all convinced that one does not need to believe in the Jewish Sabbath, or its present day equivalent of the Christian Sunday, to be aware of the need of a regular day of rest. When France was decimalized after the revolution, it was suggested that there should be one day of rest in ten. God has made us in such a way as to need one day in seven kept apart from the routine of everyday work.
Insistence on time off to attend worship each Sunday is unrealistic, particularly during a residency. It is important for the young Christian doctor to think through the meaning of the word `holy' and on this to base his attitude to `Sabbath observance'. Christ healed on the Sabbath (Mt 12:9-13) and thereby sanctified the work of our profession: any necessary work done to help others must be considered holy.
The `charging of our spiritual batteries' and a `time of mental rest' are phrases commonly used to describe the need for worship. It is only too easy to excuse ourselves from regular worship. Perhaps we are so tired that we shall sleep through the service, and after all, we can spend a time along with God without going out. Do not too readily give up the discipline of church attendance when opportunity arises.
Thinking through the problems of Sunday worship in relation to medical duties, remember three things:
* The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Mk 2:27).
Further reading: Mk 6:30-44.