The letter or the spirit

As recent events in the UK have shown it can be one thing to pass a law and quite another to work out how it applies. This is not a new thing. Four thousand years ago God gave a simple framework of laws to govern how we were to live – the Ten Commandments. The fourth of these says that we should not work on the Sabbath. That seems simple enough. But what counts as work?

A few years ago on a visit to Jerusalem I discovered that my hotel had a Sabbath lift. Unlike the other lifts this one automatically stopped at every floor on the way up and the way down. This is because pressing the button to call the lift counts as ‘work’.

But was this really what God had in mind with the Commandments? Jesus often seemed to play fast and loose with Sabbath laws and took a lot of criticism from religious leaders for doing so. On one occasion he famously said, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’ In other words, the laws of God are not intended to be life-limiting and unnecessarily restrictive, but rather as Jesus promised to lead to life, and that in all its fulness.

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