“And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.’ ” Mark 2:27-28
I had a teacher at the boarding academy I went to for high school that had earlier in his career worked at a school located very near a good location for snorkeling and scuba diving. One Sabbath afternoon he and his family were returning from the beach dressed in their swimming gear when they were met by a new teacher, at the school, and his family.
“My brother, do you think swimming is an appropriate activity for the Sabbath?” the new teacher asked.
My teacher noted that his colleague and his family were all wearing binoculars so he asked them what they were doing. To which they answered, “We’re bird watching.”
“I see,” replied my teacher, “As you can see, by what we’re wearing, we’ve been fish watching.”
God desires perfect obedience from his followers and many times, in our pursuit of not doing what we shouldn’t do, we restrict ourselves from doing things that God never forbade us from doing. For those who have actually studied all of God’s instruction regarding Sabbath observance you’ll note that there are very few specific instructions regarding things you should and shouldn’t do. Mostly the activities talked about fall into large categories rather than specific actions.
When God gave us the Sabbath it was so that we would have the time we need, and he desires, to spend together. And his desire is that we “delight” in being with him (Isaiah 58:13-14). That’s why Jesus said that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” God didn’t create us so that he would have worshippers on the Sabbath. He created the Sabbath so that those that love and delight in him would have a day were they could satisfy their desire to be with him and worship him.
Sabbath keeping then is more a matter of the heart. Where is the heart when you’re doing what you’re doing on the Sabbath? If the heart is far from God you’re not keeping the Sabbath. But if your heart is loving and delighting in God who can say that you’re not.