The Other Days
J. R. Miller, 1902
Anybody can be a Christian—on Sunday. It is not hard to have holy thoughts and heavenward aspirations and longings for communion with God—while we are amid devout worshipers whose hearts are all aflame with love for Christ. It is not hard to be sweet tempered, and to feel kindly and unselfish—when we are sitting in the church, listening to a good sermon, joining in an inspiriting hymn, or bowing in prayer. It ought not to be hard for us to be good—amid the holy influences which belong to the holy day.
But it is the other days which test our life, the days which come between the Sundays. Then we have to go out among people, and people are not always kind to us. Some of them are selfish, some are worldly, some antagonize us, and some irritate us. It is not so easy to keep our heart gentle and our speech kindly in these experiences. We find the world's atmosphere different altogether from that of the church or that of the sheltered home.
Then, on the other days we have to bear many burdens which we lay off on Sunday. As soon as the Sunday is over, we must take up again the task work of the weekdays. We must carry on our regular occupation, and sometimes the work is hard. Our tasks irk us. The routine wears us out. It is the same thing over and over again for six days, beginning every morning, toiling all day, coming home tired at night.
Then, sometimes the work does not succeed—we have many failures. We find also competition and rivalry. Other people contest every inch of the ground with us. If we are in business, the competition is usually very sharp and keen. Sometimes we meet with baseness and dishonesty, too, in those who are our rivals. They are not always willing to apply the Golden Rule to their business methods. All this makes it hard for us to meet the life of the other days. It is not easy for us to keep cheerful in spirit, and to maintain gentle feelings, as we move through these trying experiences.
The other days also bring to us, to appeal to our human nature, forms of amusement and pleasure which do not usually tempt us on Sunday. Most of us are in a measure shut away from the world on the Lord's Day. Our Christian habits are our protection. We spend the day in religious services, and in duties of love which fill hand and heart. We scarcely think of the great world outside, with its throbbing life and its sin and sorrow. Our environment for the day is so kindly, so full of spiritual help, so friendly to devotion, so warm and congenial—as almost to make us forget that we are in a world where temptation assails, where evil rules. But as we go out on Monday, we find ourselves suddenly in contact with all manner of worldly influences. The very atmosphere is antagonistic to spirituality. It is as if we had passed suddenly from a tropical summer—into arctic winter. It is not easy to live the holy life of a Christian, amid the scenes and experiences of the weekdays.
But a Christian must be a Christian on all the days. It is not enough to be in the Spirit on the Lord's Day—we must be in the Spirit on the other days too. We are to keep ourselves in the love of God—all the week. Holiness does not consist merely in devout feelings toward God, and reverent worship in God's house. We are to be Christians in our school life, in our business, in our amusements, in our friendships. We are to carry out the principles of Christianity in our associations with the world. Our hands are God's—and can be used fitly only in doing God's work on any day. Our feet are God's—and may be employed only in walking in good ways, the ways of the Divine commandments, whether it be Sunday or Monday. Our lips are God's—and should speak only words that honor God, and do good, whether it be in religious conversation, or in the talk of the parlor, or the place of business.
It is our weekday life, under the stress and strain of temptation, far more than our Sunday life, under the gentle warmth of favoring conditions—that really tests our religion. Not how well we sing and pray, nor how devoutly we worship in church; but how well we live out in the stress of affairs, how loyally we do God's will, how faithfully we carry out the principles of our religion in our conduct—these are the things that tell what kind of Christians we are.
The influence of the Sunday, like a precious perfume, should pervade all the days of the week. Its spirit of holiness and reverence should flow down into all the paths of the other days. Its voices of hope and joy should become inspirations in all our cares and toils in the outside world. Its teaching should be the guide of hand and foot in the midst of all trial and temptation. Its words of comfort should be as lamps shining in the sick room and in the chambers of sorrow. Its visions of spiritual beauty should be translated into reality in conduct, disposition, and character.
A well spent Sunday is an excellent preparation for a week amid cares and struggles. There is blessing in the Sunday rest. We cannot go on forever; we must pause here and there to renew our strength.
True Sunday rest, however, is not merely the cessation of all effort, the dropping of all work. As far as possible, we should seek to be freed from the common tasks of the other days. Happy is he who can leave behind him, on Saturday night, all his weekday affairs, to enjoy a Sunday in heavenly places, as it were, engaged with thoughts and occupations altogether different from those of the busy week. This even alone, gives rest.
As for the Sunday itself, it should be a day for the uplifting of the whole life. A tourist among the Alps tells of climbing one of the mountains in a dense and dripping mist, until at length he passed through the clouds, and stood on a lofty peak in the clear sunlight. Beneath him lay the fog, like a waveless sea of white vapor; and, as he listened, he could hear the sounds of labor, the lowing of the cattle, and the peals of the village bells, coming up from the valleys below. As he stood there, he saw a bird fly up out of the mists, soar about for a little while, and then dart down again and disappear.
What those moments of sunshine were to the bird, coming up out of the cloud, the Sunday should be to us. During weekdays we live down in the low valleys of life, amid the mists. Life is not easy for us; it is full of struggle and burden-bearing. The Sunday comes; and we fly up out of the low climates of care, toil, and tears—and spend one day in the pure, sweet air of God's love and peace. There we have new visions of beauty. We get near to the heart of Christ, into the warmth of His love. We come into the goodly fellowship of Christian people, and get fresh inspiration from the contact.
Thus we are lifted up for one day out of the atmosphere of earthliness, into a region of peace, calm, and quiet! We see all things more plainly in the unclouded sky; and we are prepared to being another week with new views of duty, under the influence of fresh motives, and with our life-fountains refilled. Thus the Sunday rest prepares us for the world and the struggle of the other days. We learn new lessons, which we are to live out in the common experience of the life before us. We see the patterns of heavenly things—as we read our Bible, and bow before God in prayer; and we are to go down from the holy mount—to weave the fashion of these patterns into the fabric of our character. We should be better, truer-souled, and richer-hearted all the week—because of the Sunday inspirations. We should carry the holy impressions, the sacred influences, in our heart as we go out into the world, singing the songs of heaven amid earth's clatter and noise. True Sunday-keeping makes us ready for true weekday-living!