Football or Faith?
I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to decide between Sunday or Sabbath.
By Jeffrey O. Brown
I was 17. It was the cup final. I was the team captain. The game was on Saturday. What would I do? Rewind …
I grew up attending the Baptist church and the Boys’ Brigade. I became sergeant of the Brigade, and captain of our company’s football (soccer) team, the district football team, and the city football team. My Seventh-day Adventist grandmother would regularly take us to her church. I would go to the Baptist Christmas party on Saturday and the Adventist Christmas party on Sunday. Life was good.
One day Granny said to me, “Jeff, you need to make a choice.”
Success on the football field had paralleled conviction about the true Sabbath. I knew I would have to have “the talk” with Skip, our Boys’ Brigade leader. And I dreaded it.
But the incredible happened. After listening to my struggles, Skip relieved all my pressure. “Jeff,” he said at Sunday morning Bible Study, “always follow your convictions.”
I didn’t play that Saturday. Instead, I went to church. Don’t ask me the name of the preacher or the topic of the sermon. All I could think about was: how is my team getting on?
The next day I found out. The faces were long. The looks were accusing. The silence was deafening. My team had lost the cup final.
Skip approached me following the disaster. “Jeff, how could you let your team down like that?” he asked incredulously.
This was the same person who seven days before had said, “Jeff, always follow your convictions.” Now he was singing a different tune: “Jeff, next week’s game will decide the championship. What will you do? Your team needs you to play next week.” Next week meant next Sabbath. With Skip looking at me pleadingly, and with the team looking at me imploringly, what would I do? What should I do? What did I do?
But did we win? No, we didn’t. We lost the game and I lost the peace of mind that comes with doing what God says is right. I heard Jesus’ words, “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9). I knew what I had to do. Though I loved my Baptist church family, I got baptized and joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
More and more Christians across the world have come to realize that the Sabbath is a beautiful benefit, not a baneful burden. Max Lucado, best-selling Christian author, writes:
“Of the ten declarations carved in the tablets, which one occupies the most space? Murder? Adultery? Stealing? You’d think so. Certainly each is worthy of ample coverage. But curiously, these commands are tributes to brevity. God needed only five English words to condemn adultery and four to denounce thievery and murder. But when he came to the topic of rest, one sentence would not suffice.”1
Lucado is correct. The commandment says: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Ex. 20:8-11).
Lucado continues: “God says one day of the week you will say no to work and yes to worship. You will slow down and sit down and lie down and rest. Still we object. ‘But … but … but … who is going to run the store?’ ‘What about my grades?’ ‘I’ve got my sales quota.’ We offer up one reason after another, but God silences them all with a poignant reminder: ‘In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.’ God’s message is plain: ‘If creation didn’t crash when I rested, it won’t crash when you do.’”2
It doesn’t always require great theology to convince people. To borrow the words of the Bible: “a little child shall lead them.”
The Boy’s Story Did It
“Aloni Muhindwa, from Uganda, was educated in Britain and became a priest in the Church of England. From his early youth he had questions about the Sabbath. Pastors, seminary professors, and bishops refused to discuss the matter. It was late in life that a story was told to him by a boy as he sipped a soft drink in a shop on his way to his coffee plantation.
“The boy said, ‘Once upon a time there was a great king who had ten sons. Before leaving for a long journey he called his prime minister and his ten sons before him and said farewell. He charged the prime minister to take good care of his sons. As soon as he had gone, the prime minister called the ten sons together again, removed the fourth son who didn’t seem to him regal enough, and replaced him with his own son that he judged to be a finer specimen of royalty.
“By and by the king returned and called for his sons. He greeted them one by one until he came to the fourth son. ‘Who is this imposter? This is not my son. What happened to my son, Mr. Prime Minister?’ The prime minister explained, ‘Your fourth son did not look like a royal son to me, so I put my [own] son in his place.’ As the story goes, the king banished the prime minister from the realm and restored his son. Aloni now asked the little boy what was the meaning of the story. He said, ‘The king is God; the ten sons are the ten commandments. The prime minister is the church, but the church changed God’s fourth commandment and put in a commandment of her own. But the King is coming back one day, sir, and He will ask what has happened to His commandment.’
“‘Where did you learn this, son?’ ‘Up at the Kereka Mission on top of the hill, sir.’ So the old priest was led by the little boy up to the Sabbathkeeping mission where he spent several days in intensive Bible study. The next Sunday he stood before his congregation and said, ‘This is my last Sunday as your priest. From now on I am a Sabbathkeeper.’”3
A. J. Jacobs, the secular journalist who spent one year keeping the more than 700 rules he had discovered in the Bible, was asked: “What, if any, rules are you still following?” He replied, “I love the Sabbath. There’s something I really like about a ‘forced’ day of rest.”4
A day made by Jesus to fellowship with His family, contemplate His creation, and rest in His redemption.5 That’s something I really like, too.
1 Max Lucado, Traveling Light: Releasing the burdens you were never intended to bear (Nashville: W. Publishing Group, 2001), pp. 41, 42.
3 Jeffrey and Pattiejean Brown, A Guide to Parenting: On the winning team with your children (Grantham: Stanborough Press, 2003), pp. 169-171.
4 Jennie Yabroff, “Biblical Living: Following Every Rule for One Year,” Newsweek, September 21, 2007.
5 See Mark 2:27, 28; Hebrews 10:25; 4:8-11.