INNER CIRCLE: Abstain From The World

INNER CIRCLE: Abstain From The World October 26, 2022


IMAGE: Keith Giles

Saying 27: Jesus said, “If you do not abstain from the world, you will not find the Kingdom. If you do not observe the sabbath as a [true] sabbath, you will not see the father.”

Abstaining – or fasting – from the world is a requirement for finding the Kingdom. Why? Because as long as we are immersed in the world – the physical world around us which is defined by the principles of separation – we cannot see the Kingdom which is marked by Oneness and connection.

New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce writes:

“This saying…seems to have been widely known in the church of the second and third centuries…While literal fasting and sabbath-keeping are deprecated (as in Sayings 14 and 104), the spiritual counterpart to these religious exercises is recommended (Saying 6).”[1]

In other words, the literal acts of fasting and observing religious practices is not what Jesus is referring to here. He has made his position on such outward forms of piety very clear; we are not to participate in religious ceremonies which bring us no closer to ultimate reality as found in Christ or the Kingdom of God. However, we are encouraged to take time to find a quiet place, to clear our minds, to sit in silence, and to meditate on the reality of our Oneness with God and all Creation.

This might, to the outward observer, appear to be a very common celebration of religious practice, but our fasting and our attention to practice a Sabbath rest – where all work is set aside and our time is devoted to prayer or contemplation – is, in reality, our very practical attempt to remind ourselves that all separation is an illusion.

Some commentators have suggested that the phrase, “If you do not observe the sabbath as a [true] sabbath, you will not see the father,” could be taken as “…if you do not observe the whole week as the sabbath…,” which perhaps might be closer to what Jesus is getting at here.

Even Tertullian wrote that “We ought to keep a Sabbath from all servile work always, and not only every seventh day, but all the time.”[2] So, it is entirely possible that this was, indeed, how early followers of Jesus understood this saying.

Especially since Jesus promised that those who are weary and heavy-laden could come to him and receive their rest – which is literally a reference to the promised, eternal Sabbath rest that God offers to those who serve and follow Him faithfully. [See Matt. 11:28-30]

So, if our desire is to “see the Father” or to “find the Kingdom” we must make it our practice to observe the entire week as our Sabbath rest, and to abstain from the World system of us and them, right and wrong, good and evil, male and female, gay and straight, and all other forms of separation-mindedness, so that we can continually be renewed in the reality of “Christ in us” which is the hope of glory.

[1] Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, by F.F. Bruce, p. 125

[2] Against the Jewish People, Ch. 4, Tertullian


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Keith Giles is the author of the hot new bestseller, SOLA MYSTERIUM: Celebrating the Beautiful Uncertainty of Everythingavailable now on Amazon. Keith is also the host of Second Cup with Keith, a new solo podcast available now on the Ethos Radio App, for Apple and Android and on Spotify. Keith is also co-host of the long-running HERETIC HAPPY HOUR PODCAST.

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