Monday, December 7, 2009

Sabbath Monitors or Lord of the Sabbath

Anybody old enough to remember “hall monitors” in school? They were appointed to monitor student activities in the hallways of our schools. The positive thing was that they were appointed by school authorities to keep the peace and protect (who, I don’t know). But I remember some rather arrogant hall monitors who abused their power to belittle freshmen peons and others who showed favoritism to those in their clique. I can’t really recall their protection or peacemaking skills.

Well I stumbled upon some Sabbath Monitors in my Bible reading today. The Pharisees were patrolling for Sabbath offenders and came upon the shocking crime of Jesus’ disciples picking grain from a field on the Sabbath. As it was their duty to patrol for non-Sabbath behavior they stopped Jesus and his entourage to question them. “Hey what do you think you are doing on the Sabbath?”

I love how Jesus handled these Sabbath Monitors. Jesus gave clear explanations of why he and his disciples had the right to eat on the Sabbath and then challenged these Sabbath Monitors for being ignorant of what God actually desired of them – mercy! And finally, Jesus told them, “Hey I’m the appointed Sabbath Monitor.” Your Bible probably reads “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

When I read this, I was convicted. I can think of frequent occasions when I appointed myself as “Driving Monitor” and corrected my husband’s driving! In fact, I can easily get into the “monitor mode” and begin judging any one and everything. I’ve been “Dress-Code Monitor,” “Leadership Monitor,” and “Parenting Monitor.” So I’m thinking, “Who made you the hall monitor, Jane?”

I can also think of specific situations in which as appointed “hall monitor” (read “leader monitor, “teacher monitor”) to keep the peace and protect, I have misused my power to criticize or condemn. Granted, the Pharisees were appointed religious leaders entrusted with the Law, but they were known to carry out their appointment with harshness and criticism.

How could the Pharisees have responded when they thought some prominent Jews were publicly breaking the Sabbath Law? How about a friendly respectful chat? “Hey, Jesus, I see that you’re followers have been picking ears of corn on the Sabbath. I’d like to hear your thoughts on that?” Jesus had some very valid reasons for their eating decisions and had an interesting take on integrating the Sabbath Law and God’s instructions about mercy over sacrifice. I’m not sure that the Pharisees really benefited from his insight at this point. They were too busy defending the Sabbath and their right as Sabbath Monitors. I realize that I often miss hearing other people’s valid perceptions and interpretations when I quickly make condemnations as a monitor or I am in defensive mode to protect my monitor role.

As I reflect on these issues I realize that the real issue is my heart attitude. Yes, there are many times that I am appointed to responsibilities that require making judgments and evaluations. But God really wants me to carry out my monitor role with love, compassion, and generosity just as Jesus did. I can learn from his humility and gentleness. Jesus was appointed “Sabbath Monitor” or Lord of the Sabbath, and I feel loved and protected as he patrols the halls of my heart.

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