Journal Article

//Journal Article
Journal Article2018-04-04T14:37:00+00:00


Brian-Schwartz

Brian Schwartz, MD

Dr. Brian Schwartz is an interventional cardiologist practicing in Kettering, Ohio. As a medical student, he struggled with his faith, nearly coming to the point of giving up. He was reclaimed through a deeper understanding of the meaning of Christ's sacrifice and its implications for his personal life.

Dr. Schwartz struggled for years with the nagging conviction that medicine should be more than just a job. He longed to make his medical work a healing ministry. His association with AMEN has helped him to integrate Christian spirituality into his practice in a more intentional and more natural way. It brings him joy to share with his patients the message that has so touched his heart. Dr. Schwartz serves as the editor of Medical Evangelist, AMEN's journal. He and his wife, internist Lyndi Schwartz, MD are a powerful ministry team in Dayton, Ohio.

The Sabbath: God’s Gift of Rest & Restoration

in Winter 2015   |
Published on 01/14/2015   |
9 min

I just returned from an evangelistic series in Dublin, Ireland—a land thought to be nearly unreachable for the gospel. How amazed we were: seventy-eight people were baptized or requested baptism. One of the baptismal candidates, named Mary, wrestled with how to keep Sabbath.

“How can you,” she asked me, “keep the Sabbath as a physician?”

I said that I greatly appreciate the rest and time of reflection that comes from the Sabbath, and that I strive to enter into that rest by avoiding routine medically related work. I take only the most necessary call shifts, and do only emergency cases that cannot be put off until after Sabbath.

Her question, though, was a good one for healthcare workers. As a Health care worker, we certainly have wide discretion regarding what is lawful and accepted on the Sabbath day. I remember in my home church as a teenager that one of the elders, a nurse, would rarely be in church. He regularly worked the weekend shift. This allowed him to stay home during the week and be involved with homeschooling his kids and to start a business. It seemed strange that he worked three out of four Sabbaths and no weekdays, but the explanation always was this: It was acceptable because he was caring for the sick. I didn’t want to judge him or his heart, but I wondered if he wasn’t just doing this for his convenience.

No question, a wide variety of ideas exist regarding what a physician or dentist may do on Sabbath. This article looks at this question.

The Sabbath As a Sign Through the Ages

When God created the world in six days, He rested on the seventh day Sabbath. This was a sign that His work was complete, perfect in every way. There was nothing more He needed to do. That first Sabbath was Adam and Eve’s first day of life and they started off their lives with everything they needed and began by resting even thou they had not yet worked. Thus, in the pre-fall Eden, Sabbath was a sign of Christ’s completed work of creation. It was a gift in time given to humanities first parents.

After the Exodus, the Sabbath became a memorial not only of creation, but also of deliverance from Egypt. Israel was delivered and redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb that pointed forward to Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

At the cross, Jesus finished His work of redemption on Friday and rested in His finished work on the Sabbath. Spiritually God has delivered us out of the land of Egypt. Now, after the cross, the Sabbath remains a sign not only of Christ‘s completed work of creation, but His completed work of salvation and deliverance. Thus the Sabbath is a sign of creation, deliverance and redemption. In a time when we will be tempted to save ourselves by our own good works, He reminds us that He is the One who sanctifies, He is the One who redeems. Sabbath speaks of God’s commitment to redeem His people at any cost to Himself.

Sabbath then, is actually the sign of Righteousness by Faith and in the last days before Christ returns the Sabbath will take a central role. It will be the sign of those who keep the commandments of God by the faith of Jesus (Rev 14:12). In contrast, Sunday is a sign of righteousness by works and undergirds the belief that Gods law cannot be kept.

Isaiah tells us that in the Earth made new, the Sabbath will still be a sanctuary in time, set apart, in order to come together to worship God. (Isaiah 66:23)

As we can see from the brief foregoing discussion, in the beginning the Sabbath was a sign of Christ’s completed work of Creation. In a modest evaluation of His work, God said it is very good and He rested in His completed, finished and perfect work. Similarly when Christ’s work of redemption was complete, He said “it is finished” and rested on the Sabbath day. Thus He gave the Sabbath additional significance, adding to creation, redemption. The Sabbath is a sign of Christ’s completed work of creation and His completed work of Salvation and necessarily is the sign of righteousness by faith.

On Sabbath we rest from our labors trusting in His complete salvation. Sabbath is a day of rest, not works. We rest in the One who created us and we rest in the One who redeemed us. From this perspective Sunday is a sign of accepting a human substitute in the place of the divine plan. In a time when we will be tempted to save ourselves by our own good works He reminds us that He is the One who sanctifies, He is the One who redeems. Those who make up the final generation will live by faith and observe God’s Sabbath day as a memorial of His sustaining power to deliver from sin and as a memorial of creation. It is not a legalistic relic of the old covenant but rather the Everlasting sign of the Everlasting covenant. Sabbath is the sign of Righteousness by Faith and not of works as Sunday worship will be revealed to represent in the end.

Jesus Healing on the Sabbath

Jesus healed on the Sabbath day, and on more than one occasion. Desire of Ages (201) notes that He would have healed many more if not for the prejudice of the religious leaders. Most of His Sabbath healings were not medical emergencies. Instead He was moved by compassion and intervened to relieve suffering. By so doing, He showed us what true Sabbath keeping includes: redeeming people from sin and the suffering from sin.

At the same time, Jesus did not heal the multitudes, even whole cities, until after the Sabbath. In the five instances noted in the gospels where Christ healed on the Sabbath, He was on His way to the Temple or to someone’s home for Sabbath dinner. He never skipped corporate worship in order to go out of His way to heal. He did not make a day out of healing. It did not require Him to open a clinic, using assistants and ancillary personnel. Lines didn’t form on the Sabbath. In all cases He sought out the sick, they did not come to Him.

The Sabbath in Christ’s day had been turned into a legalistic observance that prevented the Jews from experiencing true Rest and Restoration.

“In the healing of the withered hand, Jesus condemned the custom of the Jews, and left the fourth commandment standing as God had given it. ‘It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days,’ He declared” DA 287.

In our day the very opposite condition may exist, where Sabbath has become a day of recreation, often in pursuit of our own interests while the sacredness has often been lost. We can easily become careless or self absorbed in our observance.

Principles

How, then, do we apply Jesus’ example to ourselves as we seek to provide care? Is there a work for us to do on the Sabbath? Does what we do encourage others to keep Sabbath? We must not replace true Sabbath keeping with medical work; instead, in all that we do, we must encourage those we minister to, and ultimately invite them into Sabbath keeping with us. However the work of re-creation and restoration are well with in the example of Christ’s ministry on the Sabbath. Now as a result of sin in our world there is ever present need and suffering.

Resting in the face of crying need implies remoteness and indifference and so while there is sin, God cannot rest. (Tonstad, Lost meaning of the Seventh day 197)

Jesus spoke the creative Word and, thus, the worlds were formed, He also spoke the Word and recreated health and vigor. There is power in God’s spoken Word. It seems appropriate to engage in a healing practice that points to God’s Word as the source of life and restoration. It would seem that counseling and health education are well within appropriate Sabbath activities.

Ellen White reminds us,

“The work of the true medical missionary is largely a spiritual work. It includes prayer and the laying on of hands; he therefore should be as sacredly set apart for his work as is the minister of the gospel… No selfish motives should be allowed to draw the worker from his post of duty. We are living in a time of solemn responsibilities; a time when consecrated work is to be done. Let us seek the Lord diligently and understandingly. If we will let the Lord work upon human hearts, we shall see a great and grand work accomplished. . . .” {1MR 73.1}

With our modern health care system’s need for sophisticated equipment and teams of personnel, it would seem prudent to be far more careful using these tools on the Sabbath than we might have been before. Institutionally we should be careful to avoid routine care. The following may be helpful in giving us balance.

“Common, every day treatment should not be given on the Sabbath. Let the patients know that physicians must have one day on which to rest. Often it is impossible for physicians to take time on the Sabbath for rest and devotion. They may be called upon to relieve suffering. Our Saviour has shown us by His example that it is right to relieve suffering on the Sabbath. But physicians and nurses should do no unnecessary work on this day. Ordinary treatment and operations which can wait should be deferred till the next day” D.E.R. Aug. 23, 1900.

An additional consideration is the needed rest and spiritual regeneration of the health worker. We do not have the spiritual maturity of Jesus, the Master Healer. He often awoke “a long while” before daybreak seeking His Father’s blessing and needed wisdom and power for the day. After a long day of ministry, including healing, He would often withdraw with His disciples for rest. In fact, after healing whole villages after the Sabbath hours, He would retire to the mountains to spend the rest of the night in prayer.

We must recognize our frailty and, thus, our need for rest and regeneration on the Sabbath. Yes, there still may be ministry that we do on Sabbath. But we must keep our personal spiritual connectedness as a priority. We must demonstrate how to truly keep Sabbath.

“A spirit of irreverence and carelessness in the observance of the Sabbath is liable to come into our sanitariums. Upon the men of responsibility in the medical missionary work rests the duty of giving instruction to physicians, nurses, and helpers in regard to the sanctity of God’s holy day. Especially should every physician endeavor to set a right example. The nature of his duties naturally leads him to feel justified in doing on the Sabbath many things that he should refrain from doing. So far as possible he should so plan his work that he can lay aside his ordinary duties” 7T 106.

Conclusion

As AMEN wrestles with how to implement a Sabbath medical ministry, we must be charitable toward each other as we strive to engage in new ways of ministering while keeping Sabbath holy. In following Christ’s example, we are called to relieve suffering. But we also need to be mindful that the ultimate goal is to restore mankind to the image of God and to teach people how to be in harmony with God’s law. True Sabbath keeping, coupled with worship of the Creator God, will ultimately be the final testing truth; thus, we should strive to demonstrate the sacredness of the day while being mindful of the needs around us.

While we should never neglect corporate worship, it seems appropriate on the Sabbath to engage in health education, prayer for the sick, and, when necessary, the immediate relieving of human suffering. Thus, we can carry on ministry throughout the week while being personally recharged for ministry through the week. If the right arm focus on healing loses its subservient position to proclaiming the gospel, then we have misused our calling.

“The health reform is closely connected with the work of the third message, yet it is not the message. Our preachers should teach the health reform, yet they should not make this the leading theme in the place of the message.” 1T 559

Ellen White saw trained laity, pastors as well as physicians, engaged in medical missionary work. Is it this kind of work she encouraged on Sabbath?

“To take people right where they are, whatever their position, whatever their condition, and help them in every way possible, this is gospel ministry. It may be necessary for ministers to go into the homes of the sick and say, “I am ready to help you, and I will do the best I can. I am not a physician, but I am a minister, and I like to minister to the sick and afflicted.” Those who are sick in body are nearly always sick in soul, and when the soul is sick, the body is made sick.” —Medical Ministry, p. 238.

We should not conduct medical ministry on the Sabbath day in a way that becomes institutional, business-like or ordinary care. However if it embraces and encompasses an evangelistic work and is compelled by the suffering around us then it should not be neglected on the Sabbath or any other day.

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