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Commandment to heal

From The Christian Science Journal - August 1, 2012

Have you ever had trouble with the Fourth Commandment? That’s the one that says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). For years I had difficulty with this because I couldn’t see its relevance in daily life. All the other commandments are constant, but this one appears to apply only on Sundays. 

The commandment goes on to say that nobody is to do any work on the Sabbath, including servants and work animals (Exodus 20:9, 10). I reasoned that this weekly day off was essential for the overall benefit of the individual and society, but that did not explain the reason for this commandment from a spiritual point of view. Even the idea that we should reverence God every day didn’t help, because that didn’t seem to be what the commandment was actually saying. 

Then, not long ago, the Christian Science Bible Lesson for the week dealt with the Ten Commandments, and it included the last verse of the Fourth Commandment, which reads, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11). Although I had read that verse many times before, at last the whole thing suddenly clicked into place. 

This verse is a reference to the seven days of creation in Genesis, where God rested on the seventh day because He had finished all of creation and pronounced it “very good.” He then “blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it” (see Genesis 1:1—2:3). 

True rest can only come from complete trust in the perfection of God's creation.

So, to obey this commandment must mean to “remember the seventh day of creation, and keep it holy”—in other words, to keep the completeness and absolute perfection of God’s creation always uppermost in thought, and to demonstrate it. And that means healing! 

Jesus did a number of healings on the Sabbath, infuriating the scribes and Pharisees, who accused him of breaking the Fourth Commandment. In fact, I now realized, Jesus was the only one present on any of those occasions who was actually keeping the Sabbath! He alone was remembering the seventh day of creation—God’s complete, indestructible, and perfect universe, including men and women made in His image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26, 27). And he was “keeping it holy,” because his clear understanding of this immutable law of health and wholeness was manifested in the instantaneous cure of people with often long-standing diseased conditions, such as a woman bent over and unable to stand upright for 18 years, and a man blind from birth (see Luke 13:10–17 and John 9). 

Suddenly this commandment became vitally important and valuable to me. It does apply every day, just as the other nine do. It is a constant demand to accept as real and true only that which is spiritual, perfect, and good. 

Whatever we do, if it is expressing God, it is celebrating the Sabbath.

So, what about resting on the Sabbath, as this commandment also requires? True rest can only come from complete trust in the perfection of God’s creation. This rest allowed Jesus to sleep peacefully during a storm that threatened to sink the boat that he and his disciples were traveling in; and when they awoke him in terror, it enabled him to stop that storm instantly (see Matthew 8:23–26). He then rebuked his disciples for their want of faith, indicating that they lacked the correct sense of their God-given security, which flows from the understanding and application of the seventh day of creation—the ever-present, all-powerful law of perfection—even in this earthly situation. 

God did not create a static universe, however, but an active one, because God is Life—eternal activity and vitality. Mary Baker Eddy writes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “God rests in action” (p. 519). So although God was resting on the seventh day, because creation was complete, that rest was action—a perfect, active, alive universe, eternally expressing all that God is. So whatever we do, if it is expressing God, it is celebrating the Sabbath. This could be abseiling down a cliff, digging in the garden, or getting a good night’s sleep despite the environmental conditions, as Jesus did in the storm. 

The outcome of the active acknowledgment of the seventh day of creation—of the perfection and completeness of God’s universe—is the absolute trust in our (and everyone’s) constant God-given perfection, wholeness, health, and safety as part of that perfect, complete creation. This is true rest, and healing is the ultimate and inevitable outcome of this Christly state of mind, celebrating the perfection of God’s creation by proving it to be the only reality of being. This is truly obeying the Fourth Commandment.

Victoria Jay lives near Hobart in Tasmania, Australia, where she devotes herself to the practice of Christian Science.

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