What to do when cultural practices portend absolute truth …

Growing up not far from Shepherd Mall in shallow north OKC, I recall many trips on my bicycle to the Mall. We would check out the latest toys in “T.G. & Y.” Sporting goods stores also capture the fancy of young boys looking for a new baseball glove or a new basketball for use in the driveway. Stone’s IGA anchored the east end of the Mall. We tagged along for countless “grocery shopping trips.”

In my early years I recall many stores being closed on Sunday. I later learned there were “blue laws” that dictated what could be open and what must be closed on Sundays. After all, Sunday was the new sabbath for many a Christian and we would need to help regulate activities so as not to defame the holy day.

Now many years later, Shepherd Mall more resembles a sprawling office complex rather than the home of JC Penny and Dillard’s as well as a movie theater. Were Shepherd Mall a normal Mall today, it would bustle on Sundays rather than simply provide walking space from the Cafeteria to the car.

What changed? Our culture changed. Did we Christians fail to hold the line and retreat into our homes and church buildings never to intersect the increased pace of life that now includes many a youth sporting event on a Sunday? Or, did we realize that Jesus said the “sabbath” was made for man and not man for the “sabbath?” Or did we realize the critical issue for sabbath observance was not “inactivity” as much as a change in the kind of “activity?” Are we less Christian today because we do not observe things on Sunday the way we once did? Are we less committed followers of Christ because we failed to maintain legislation once equated with what it was to live in a Christian Nation?

My musings about blue laws really grows from wrestling with what about our faith is more cultural than scriptural and what should win the day. Growing up in an extremely convservative Christian environment, do I now find that much of what I considered Scriptural really was preferential? If so, what do we learn and what do we teach?

I am thinking Scripture should win the day – regardless of what I once preferred, and still may prefer.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

5 comments on “What to do when cultural practices portend absolute truth …

  1. says:

    Let’s be honest the culture is created by our own preferences. The fact that any 24×7 businesses exist is evidence of consumer buying patterns and the belief that my convenience is king. When my family goes into a restaurant on Sunday are we not creating the demand that forces others to work on that day? Wouldn’t some of these people be in our churches worshipping alongside us if we refrained from buying products and services on that day? See ‘Davis family still alive’ on Convergence.

    When we reward businesses that stay open on our Sabbath day, the degree that we eliminate others participation in it must at least be acknowledged. I have to wonder whether I really value the Sabbath day enough to refrain from those activities which would force others to work. It’s sad to think that instead we would probably attempt to rationalize our unwillingness to give up buying groceries, or eating out on one particular day each week.

    A refreshing exception to the rule of capitalism winning out over observence of the Sabbath is Chick-Fil-A — always closed on Sundays. Take a look at their web site and executive profiles and you’ll understand where their values are. Unfortunately, they are a rarity in the retail/foodservice industry.

  2. says:

    Nice post, bro.

  3. says:

    I have wrestled with the same thoughts and felt guilt over what has occurred in my lifetime with the removal of these “blue laws”.

    The blame in part lies in our churches in that what have we offered on Sundays did not satisfy or capture the majority of society. But haven’t we seen that the people who want to be in “church” will be there and those that don’t, won’t, now or then.? We cannot expect a lost world to continually defer to our traditions when they don’t see the benefit of it.

    Maybe alternative worship on different days would bring in people who don’t come on Sunday, because maybe they don’t want to be with the Sunday Crowd. Maybe they are a waitress at a restraurant and they have been in contact with rude after church diners who don’t tip very well.

    Jesus was always where the sick, poor and lost people were. (Samaria, leper colonies, tax collectors homes) After He went to them, they flocked to Him. Did’nt he heal on the Sabbath, when that was traditionally forbidden? Is there a lesson there?

  4. says:

    I did’nt articulate my point very well earlier so please bear with me.

    I am not unhappy with tradition church in fact it meets my needs and I am comfortable in it. But is that what Jesus wants us to be, comfortable?

    Many types of people are not being reached by traditional roles played by our churches. For example some of us have to work on Sundays, what are we to do about corporate worship? The debate about whether or not commerce or anything else should occur on Sundays can go on and on, but the reality is people do work on Sundays in 21st century America.

    Other people have been disillusioned by personal contact with “churched people”. I know a fishing guide who told me that Baptist were his worst customers because they drank all his beer and never left a tip. Another man I know grew up across from a Baptist Church, saw the members at the bar but nobody ever asked him to church.

    Or how about the fact that 90% of the foreign students attending U.S. colleges, NEVER go inside an American familiy’s home. NEVER.

    So do we need to do away with our traditions? No, but should’nt we may be try to go back and see if we could do a better job of reaching the people Jesus reached when He walked the planet in bodily form? Are’nt we the body now?

  5. says:

    I live and work in a part of town that is predominately Jewish in New York City. Last week, I was talking with a friend in a nearby park regarding her Ordination paper and we noticed a lot of hasidic Jews walking through the park. (They are easily identifyable by their skull hats, yarmulkes, and particular clothing.)

    I commented to my friend, “Dang, there sure are a lot of Jewish folk milling about.” And she said that most Jews strictly observe their Sabbath. They are not allowed to do any work (according to the Scriptures). They cannot cook or do any kind of physical exercise. Generally the only thing they are allowed to do outside is walk. And walk they do until the sun sets on Saturday.

    I must say, it looked peaceful watching many moms and dads with their children walking quietly by holding hands. Old ladies and young men, walking and talking, sharing their stories.. they were meandering with each other in ways that helped make the sunny evening feel warm and fuzzy.

    When I left the park, I found myself back along the bustling of crowds in Upper Manhattan. The vendors were hawking their wares, all the barber shops were open for business, people were shouting and cars drove by with their music blarring. It made me long to get back to the park to feel the serenity of an afternoon stroll with friends and family.

    Being the New Yorker that I am and one who loves diversity and who sees it everyday, I worry that mandating the observance of such a day might actually make lives more mundane (and less intereting)- or, problematic- while I think the jewish community is rather amazing, many follow rules (ie, such as eating no shrimp [shellfish]) into something less about faith and more about works, which I find very troubling.

    However, I think if we spend more time around those we love- or at least, spend as much time as we can on whatever day we are able, then we are carrying the spirit of the Sabbath with us. I do think it would be cool though, if we could all do it on the same day.

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