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Practices that can Stop Abuse of Power

Practices that can Stop Abuse of Power

Anxiety, coercion, exclusivism, and multitasking are Brueggemann’s four examples of four specific situations in which Sabbath is an act of resistance. The church may experience less abuse of power if these four areas are put into practice.

Against anxiety: Sabbath works to “counter anxious productivity with committed neighborliness.” While we constantly fret that we have not done enough, Brueggemann reminds us that, by “the end of six days God had done all that was necessary for creation … So have we!”[1] Jesus called for this rest in Matthew 11:28-30 saying; “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…” Rest does not mean absence from work alone, but it is a moment of reflection, a moment of worship, a moment when we think about the goodness of God and give him thanks for all he has done. Sabbath rest gives us the opportunity to be less anxious and worry not about the needs of the day despite the fact that they are necessities. Jesus speaks to his disciples in Matt 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” Why? Because the God of the Sabbath knows about our needs and is ready to provide v32 “your heavenly Father knows that you need them… v33 seek first his kingdom and righteousness (His rest, His work free institution), every other thing shall be added to you.” We are also commanded by Paul in Eph. 4:6, not to be anxious about anything. It is necessary for the well-being of every faith organization and its members to have a moment of reset and submission to God.

Against Coercion: families, slaves, animals, and legal immigrants are included in Deuteronomy’s description of the Sabbath’s observance.

“But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.” (Deut. 5:14)

Brueggemann contends, “this one day breaks the pattern of coercion; all are like you—equal worth, equal value, equal access, equal rest.”[2] All neighbors are included in these commands: “Coveting is the ultimate destruction of the neighborhood, for coveting generates mistrust and sets neighbor against neighbor.”[3] Every leader, pastor, and minister should keep in mind that they previously came under the devil’s control. That enslavement has been broken, freeing us. We should thus be considerate to our members and refrain from using our position as leverage to force them into self-serving production. Ministers, pastors, and other leaders must give their people a break if they are to pursue justice, embrace compassion, and walk humbly. Working is enjoyable, but it is also exhausting. We become less driven, less under duress, less anxious to fulfill deadlines, and more free to be than to do when we remember and observe Sabbath.[4]

Against Exclusivism: In most religious institutions, there is a desire to identify and connect primarily with people who follow their tradition or denomination. Some religious denominations forbid participation in Holy Communion by members of other church denominations, while others forbid sharing the altar with other pastors or ministers.  Brueggemann, in describing the contemporary situation, makes it clear that we are so fearful that we want to fence the world in order to keep others out “women, immigrants, gays and race.”[5] Numerous requirements are established to exclude these groups from the church (old requirements as mentioned by Brueggemann). The necessary requirement as mentioned by Brueggemann; “It is Sabbath, work stoppage.” If there is anything that everyone can partake in it – women, gays, aliens, black or white, is the Sabbath rest. “Sabbath deconstructs the notion of being qualified for membership.”[6] The exclusive mindset between the Jews and the Samaritans is broken by Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman in John 4. She responded by making it very obvious that the Samaritans had no connection to Jews when Jesus asked for a drink (v. 6). “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” After a lengthy discussion, Jesus shattered the exclusivist mentality and gave the woman access to the living waters. In the same gospel Jesus prayed for his disciples and those who will believe after; John 17:20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message…” The call to resist exclusivism is a call to embrace inclusivism.

Against multitasking: Brueggemann defines it as; “the drive to be more than we are, to control more than we do, to extend our power and our effectiveness, such practice yields a divided self, with full attention given to nothing.”[7] Our focus must be entirely on God and neighbor on the Sabbath rather than the selfishness that frequently characterizes the remaining six days of the week. We are constantly reminded that the Sabbath is based on God’s nature and not on the physical, mental, or emotional advantages of rest or less stress. “Sabbath is a practical divestment,” he writes, “so that neighborly engagement, rather than production and consumption, defines our lives.”[8] We should always remember, Sabbath was designed to be time for relationship

By Martin H. Kamaidad

[1] Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as resistances: Saying No to the Culture of Now (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017),  28.

[2] Ibid. 41.

[3] Ibid. 69.

[4] Ibid. 42-43.

[5] Ibid. 55.

[6] Ibid. 56.

[7] Ibid. 67.

[8] Ibid. 18.