This Sabbath, there are Sabbath-keeping Christians all over the world who won’t be at church. For various reasons, they don’t attend regularly. When something comes up or they’re away for travel, they may not attend a church.

For years I thought this ludicrous. My family instilled in me a deep…obligation to be in a church each Sabbath. I call it an obligation because I thought since I was baptized and since I loved God and since I had various roles in the church, I should attend!

I was well into adulthood before I met Adventist Christians who chose to skip church for a road trip or service project. Some of them were pastors and Bible workers. As I watched the different ways they celebrated Sabbath with God, I learned that there’s more to church than church attendance.

I’m not knocking church attendance at all. The strong pull to church each week proved in my favor when I found myself divorced at the young age of 21. When my marriage ended I thought I had committed the ultimate sin by letting it fail. I was angry with God for letting me waste six years of my life loving a man who could never love me back. I didn’t want to attend church.

Truth be told, for much of my marriage to my ex husband I didn’t attend church, but when we divorced, I went as if my life depended upon it–and in some ways it did. I believe I’m in church today because God pulled me into his sanctuary during one of the darkest seasons of my life.

Today I attend church because I love it.

I have a job in the church teaching the young children’s Sabbath School programs, but I think I would love it otherwise.

The difference, I think, is my heart.

When my heart didn’t want to attend church because I was angry, I knew better than to listen to my sinful nature.

When I’m on vacation and would rather hang out with my family at the beach or in the hotel room, I don’t feel guilt at not finding a church. It took me years, but my relationship with Jesus is not contingent upon¬†religious church attendance. I think God cares more about my spiritual church attendance.

Where my heart is on Sabbath is the difference between religiosity and spirituality.

Remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8) is the law I choose to keep, but oftentimes, in becoming closer to the law, we move further away from God.

Adversely, when we become closer to God, we will move closer to the law, not further from it.

Has this been true in your own spiritual walk? In an attempt to do things “by the book” and make sure others do as well, we end up doing everything right. Then we may wonder where God is when we stop to notice we aren’t walking with Him anymore. We are wrong to think that obeying the law is the same as walking with God.

Maybe you’ve found that drawing closer to God will bring you into the harmony with His law. You love Him, so you keep His commandments (John 14:15). You long to be near Him, so you continue keeping His commandments.

You keep God’s Sabbath holy whether you’re on vacation or quarantine, whether you can attend church or not, whether you attend a house church or a mega-church. Let this be your wake up call to remove the shackles you may be under when it comes to Sabbath. I know many who are racked with guilt because they aren’t attending because of COVID-19. Remove the shackles of guilt. God didn’t give us Sabbath to be a prison, but a place for peace.

Look out for an upcoming #TuesdayTalk that dives deeper into the gift of the law.