I write this article not as a theologian or someone who claims to have any authority on this subject. I simply write this article as a Christian man who wonders what the Bible really says about me hunting or fishing on Sunday and for the Christian men who struggle with this same issue. This question has come up many times in the circles I run in and I've heard all kinds of answers/justifications from men. Some of my own friends and family members will be on a different side of the fence on this issue. In the end, our state laws and opinions matter very little and only what the Bible says really counts. The rest of the world will certainly see no problem with any activity on Sunday, but as Christians we need to be clear on what the Bible (not society) says.
What the Bible Says About the Sabbath
Does God get tired? I don't think so, but from the beginning of Scripture God sets an example for us by creating the heavens and the earth and then resting on the 7th day (Genesis 2:2-3). This was the very first observance of the Sabbath and this pattern is repeated throughout Scripture (both Old and New Testaments).
When I try to understand the Bible's guidance for modern day living, I divide things up into three categories: Biblical Commandments, Biblical Principles, and Personal Convictions. Obviously, Biblical Commandments carry the highest weight and mandate for our lives. Commandment number four says: "Remember the Sabbath and Keep it Holy" (Exodus 20:8-11).
The literal translation of the word Holy means "set apart." In another word: different. The things that we do on Sundays are different than what we do Monday through Saturday. For me, this means remember to keep Sunday from becoming like all the other days of the week. The clearest example we have of a New Testament Church was in the book of Acts. And on the Sabbath, they dedicated themselves to the public worship of God, not hobbies. Sunday is not just another play day. It's a holy day.
Allow me to respond to several of the most popular "justifications" I hear from men:
· I can worship God better from my treestand than in Church!
o Response: There's no doubt that we can worship God anywhere we are at. And if a man can worship better in his treestand, then this is a problem that we the Church need to address. In fact, Ironman Outdoors is working with Churches to give them more tools to Church to reach men. However, there's another Biblical principle in play here.
§ "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:23-25
o Better men than you have failed at the do-it-yourself approach to Christianity. You need to be plugged into a faith family! You need to be surrounded by other Christian men. Want to know the spiritual health of a man? Show me his relationships with other Christian men. Isolation is the enemy. The devil loves any activity that will take you away from Church.
· I work all week and have so little time to hunt
o Response: You don't have it any tougher than any other man in history. In fact, I would argue most men have more free time now than ever before in history (Example A: Facebook; Example B: Fantasy Football).
o We all have the same number of hours in the week to work, hunt, fish, spend time with family, and yes worship! The Bible is crystal clear that one-seventh of our time should be devoted to rest and the public worship of God.
· I only hunt before or after Church
o The Bible does not say "Honor Two Hours of the Sabbath." It says honor the Sabbath and keep it (the whole day) holy. If you can find a verse that breaks the Sabbath into different hours of the day that we must observe, please send it to me.
· But I take my kids hunting with me on Sundays
o Response: We as men do a great job of taking a kid along with us on something that we want to do and justifying it as "family time." I promise you that taking your kids with you to church on Sundays will have a much more profound impact on their lives than sitting in the woods. Kids that see Dad's faith is the real deal will be much more likely to live out their own faith.
To close this article, I must say a word about legalism. The New Testament is clear that we are not under the law, but under Grace (Romans 6:14). Jesus healed folks on the Sabbath and told the disciples that if an ox was in the ditch you should help out (Matthew 12:11). Certainly, there are times when we are not going to be able to attend church on Sunday. And certainly, there may be an occasion when we are travelling a long way from home to hunt or fish and Sunday activities are part of the trip. Christ actually fought against the legalistic views of the Pharisees. However, the general pattern of our lives should be one that honors the Sabbath. In general, our Sundays should not look like the other six days of the week.Christian men are to be the spiritual leaders in our homes. Perhaps the most important thing that Dad controls is the family calendar. And that calendar should include worship with the family in Church on Sundays. If you spend most Sundays on the lake or at the hunting club, what message are you sending to your children? Consider your views and actions on the Sabbath and then put them through the filter of Scripture. Then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15). And as one of my buddies says, "Stand Firm."