A special day
Dash: ‘You always say, “Do your best”, but you don’t really mean it. Why can’t I do the best that I can do?’ Helen: ‘Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in; and to fit in we just gotta be like everybody else’. Dash: ‘Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of. Our powers made us special’. Helen: ‘Everyone’s special, Dash’. Dash: [sullenly] ‘Which is another way of saying no one is’.
This mother and son dialogue is from Pixar’s critically acclaimed animation The Incredibles, about a super-hero family living at a time when super-heroes are not fashionable.
The dialogue perceptively highlights an issue in western society today. Specialisation is receiving a negative press. People fear that in the academic and business worlds, for example, it is causing harm.
Then there is the negative perception of those young people who, influenced by such phrases as ‘special education’ and ‘Special Olympics’, use the word ‘special’ in a pejorative way.
Besides all this, some evangelicals have had bad experiences, when special people, days and times have been held in high esteem, and are wary of such talk. Growing numbers of them are not at all keen on the idea of special people, special days or special times.
Yet surely, fear of specialisation should hardly characterise people who serve a God who has singled out one special planet in this vast universe, the Earth, to be inhabited; one special race, humankind, to be his focus; and one special people, believers in Jesus Christ, to be redeemed.
There was a time when most evangelicals accepted that not all days are the same. There are seven days in a week, but the first is special – the ‘day of rest and gladness’ when ‘Christ rose from depths of earth’; a special day to celebrate.
In recent years, however, more and more are shying away from the idea. It is usually put in terms of ‘every day being special’, rather than no day being special, but, as Dash would say, claiming every day is special is another way of saying no day is.
Such people often quote Romans 14:5-6 and Colossians 2:16-17: ‘One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honour of the Lord…
‘Let no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ’.
It is clear, they say, that keeping a day special is fine, but it is not an obligation. No one can say ‘keep the sabbath’, as it is only an Old Testament shadow.
And, on the face of it, the verses seem to say just that. Seasoned Bible students, however, know that first impressions can be wrong.
So, rather than simply assume Paul is talking about Sundays, consider other possibilities. Albert Barnes’ commentary points out that ‘sabbath’in Colossians 2:16is plural and unlikely to refer to the Lord’s day. ‘There is no evidence from this passage that he would teach that there was no obligation to observe any holy time, for there is not the slightest reason to believe that he meant to teach that one of the Ten Commandments had ceased to be binding’.
In 1971, Paul Jewett similarly remarked that ‘it is unconvincing … to press Paul’s statement in Romans 14:5 so absolutely as to have considered John a Judaiser for having called one day in the week the Lord’s day, thus giving it the pre-eminence’. Such statements should give us pause.
If no day is special, why did God allocate seven days to creation, deliberately making one different? If no day is special, why does Moses make the point that one day in seven is specially blessed and set apart to God?
If no day is special, why, in John 20, having met with his disciples on the evening of his resurrection in Thomas’ absence, is it only ‘eight days later’ (John 20:26) – the following Sunday – that Jesus meets with them again? Did Jesus not know that all days are now equal?
If no day is special, why was the Spirit poured out on the Lord’s day? Is it simply coincidence? If no day is special, given that Acts 20:6 says Paul spent seven days in Troas, why wait until Sundayto break bread and preach, especially given that Paul’s sermon went on until midnight? If only he had realised there are no special days any more!
If no day is special, why did Paul tell the Corinthians to put gifts aside and store them up, as God prospered them, ‘on the first day of every week’ (1 Corinthians 16:2) -not just any day? Did he not know that all days are now equal? If no day is special, why in Revelation does John speak about the Lord’s day (1:10)? Did he not know that every day is the Lord’s day?
One is not naive enough to think that the sabbath question is easy to settle, but if we can at least agree that the first day of the week is special, we will make progress in the right direction.
The author was born in Wales, has been pastor of Childs Hill Baptist Church, London, since 1983, and has authored several EP Books titles. He and his wife Eleri have five sons.