April 17, 1991
A North Dakota city sends advertising flyers into southern Saskatchewan hoping to encourage Canadian shoppers. One of those flyers recently featured this catchy headline: SINNER APPROVES SUNDAY OPENING.
The lead line in the story explained: “North Dakota became the final state to repeal its Blue Laws when Gov. George Sinner signed a Sunday-opening bill Wednesday....”
I’m tempted to take potshots at terrible puns however the more important issue is what do we do with our Sundays. At the risk of stepping on some traditions, dare I suggest the word “Sunday” is not in the Bible? Instead, the word “Sabbath” is mentioned many times. It was a day of rest inaugurated by God, first for Himself and then for His people. He created on the first six days, then on the seventh He “ceased from His work and rested.”
Later, He commanded the Israelites: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it you shall not do any work...”
The seventh day was special for Israel. Exodus 31:13 says, “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, my Sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am the LORD that makes you holy.” Verse 16 and 17 say, “The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath... throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant... It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever...” When the nation of Israel turned away from God, they were sharply rebuked by the prophets. Nehemiah said; “... Did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? Yet you bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath.” God took Sabbath-keeping seriously.
However, by the time Jesus came, Sabbath-keeping had become ritual and tradition, characterized by rules and bondage instead of refreshment and rest. The day became more important than the people it was intended to benefit. So Jesus helped people, even on the Sabbath, and that enraged the Jews. After He rose from the dead, the disciples began to meet on the first day of the week, worshiping together and celebrating the resurrection.
Christians don’t always agrees about Sabbath and Sunday. Some feel the Sabbath still must be kept on the seventh day. Others impose Sabbath laws on Sunday. Some see the original law as an analogy that was fulfilled in Christ. (The book of Hebrews explains how the Old Testament Sabbath illustrated a rest that comes when we cease from our own labors to earn merit before God and rest in the salvation provided by Christ. Consequently, failure to enter into that rest has far more serious results than failure to relax on Sunday.)
The Apostle Paul handled the argument this way: “One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).
So what about Sunday shopping? Personally, I can sin on Sundays whether the stores are open or not. That isn’t the issue. Christians need to worship God together, so having one day a week to do it is practical, regardless of complex Sabbath theology.
Not only that, worship is a command. Given the fact of our sin nature, open malls, fishing holes, football games, and sunny picnic sites just might add to the temptation to disobey it. While we need to remember, regardless of the temporary “benefits” of skipping worship, we will eventually suffer from that sin (just as we will from any other sin), we also need to remember that Jesus said the Sabbath was made FOR US, not to ruin weekend plans. Liberty to rest and worship goes far beyond any so-called freedom to shop on Sundays.