An Island in Time

The Isle of Lewis, northernmost of the Scottish Hebrides, has a population of just 18,500—and a strong religious tradition. Lewis’ people are mostly members of two Presbyterian groups, but there is also a Roman Catholic Church and other Christian groups on the island.

Part of their religious tradition is that just about everything stops on Sunday, which Lewis residents consider the Sabbath. In early January, a local movie theater said it would begin a trial of opening on Sunday—something that set tongues wagging and attracted media interest all over the United Kingdom.

“What we are doing is a genuine audience research exercise and not at all trying to challenge, or go against, local traditions,” said theater chief executive Ellie Fletcher in a BBC interview. “Sabbath observance is something very important to the Isle of Lewis, and there is a strong history of Sabbath observance here, and we are mindful and respectful of that,” she added.

But James Eglinton, a theology lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, has a different view. Writing in the Times of London, he said, “On Lewis rest happens once a week and is a communal rhythm of life,” adding later, “There is nothing self-evidently superior to the mainland’s rhythm of life,” which includes businesses opening every day of the week.

While those discussing the Isle of Lewis may be off in their understanding of the actual Sabbath day—Exodus 20:10 affirms “the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God,” after all—one has to offer a tip of the hat to the good people of Lewis who are trying to preserve a weekly “island in time,” as the day of rest has been called.

Rather than merely opening up a business for more potential traffic, Eglinton says that neutralizing an island-wide day of rest will put a burden on those seeking to rest one day in seven: “It becomes a counter-cultural effort, a set of negotiations with new norms that simply assume willingness to work that Sunday shift, to take your child to that Sunday sports club, and so on,” he wrote.

These are issues very familiar to those who have made a commitment to observe what the Bible says is the Sabbath day—the seventh day of the week. It’s often assumed someone can work late on Friday, into the evening, or “just a few hours” on a Saturday morning. (Those same employers usually have no gripe with closing on a Sunday, however, but that’s a subject for another time.)

Of course, observing the Bible Sabbath involves more than just not working (or doing business) on a given day of the week. Rather, it means remembering and honoring the One who not only created the Sabbath day, but also all things—including you.

Be sure to visit sabbathtruth.org, which offers a full discussion of the importance, history and meaning of the real Sabbath day. It’s information that can change your perspective and help improve your quality of life.

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