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Ask Salt&Light: What if I have to work on Sundays?

Ask Salt&Light gives our readers the opportunity to ask Christian ministry staff and marketplace leaders questions about the practicalities of living out the Christian faith in the workplace.

Dr Tan Seng Kong // March 19, 2018, 5:00 am

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Dear Salt&Light,

I do shift work and often I have to work on Sundays and miss church service. I’ve tried to swap my shifts around but I recently found out this annoys some of my colleagues. I don’t want to be a bad testimony either. Should I continue swapping shifts?

Abigail, 27, Television Producer

You have pointed out two very important dimensions of the Christian life: Keeping the Sabbath and being a witness.

Our Lord calls us to come to Him to find true rest (Matthew 11:28). At the same time, Christ also sends us out into the world to be His witnesses (Matthew 28:19). This action of coming together and going out is what makes the church of Christ.

One expression of this gathering together is the Sunday church service. But this is not the same as Sabbath observance.

Part of what makes keeping the Sabbath is ceasing from work. Exodus 34:21

Resting from our labour is fundamental to keeping us human and sane. It prevents us from becoming workaholics. So, setting aside a day to rest on a regular basis is a good spiritual discipline to observe.

Traditionally, the church as a community has instituted Sunday for Sabbath keeping. Yet, observing the Sabbath is not just about keeping a strict rule of not working on Sundays.

Just as Sabbath rest keeps us from turning work into an idol, we don’t want to turn Sabbath into a god. For Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath. Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5

In modern city life, sometimes it is not possible to have a Sunday Sabbath, especially those who do shift work. You can just as well, like many pastors who work on Sundays, set aside a weekly day off to observe Sabbath rest.

Just as Sabbath rest keeps us from turning work into an idol, we don’t want to turn Sabbath into a god. For Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath.

More than just ceasing from work, however, Sabbath observance is entering into God’s pattern of work and rest. Genesis 1-2 There is also the positive practice of setting aside time to enjoy God in worship, enjoy our selves in play, and celebrating with others. We see the Psalmist (Psalm 104) describing God and His creation participating in this rhythm of work, play and rest.

We should work at incorporating this pattern of work and rest, feasting and fasting, community and solitude, conversation and silence into our daily, weekly, and yearly cycles of life.

Together with setting aside regular, personal time for rest, try to find other regular opportunities to share life together. If you are not able to attend Sunday service, a mid-week prayer meeting or Saturday night service will be a good substitute. Even regular participation in a small group fellowship at your local church or workplace would be helpful.

Equally important to being the people of God is our call to go forth into the world as Christ’s witnesses.

As priests of God in the marketplace, we point others to Christ by doing good work. Good work, according to Howard Gardner, should be excellent, ethical, and enjoyable.

As Christians, we do our work to the best of our ability with integrity and joy, not fundamentally for ourself or the company but for God’s glory. Colossians 3:17

One aspect of making our work enjoyable is to cultivate good relationships with our colleagues. And if swapping shifts does not make for peace, then it might be prudent to keep to the day off roster for now.

Who knows, when friendships have been built at the workplace, your colleagues might even offer to swap their Sunday with your day off?

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About the author

Dr Tan Seng Kong

This week’s reply was provided by Dr Tan Seng Kong, the Director of Online Education and Lecturer in Spiritual and Systematic Theology at Bible Graduate School of Theology (BGST). Dr Tan was trained in architecture and worked in government, private consultancy as well as the building and banking industries over the years. With theological degrees from Regent College and Princeton Theological Seminary, he teaches courses in Christian theology, spirituality and ethics.

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