Making a buck on Sunday...

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Family Christians Stores (FCS) used to be called Zondervan Family Bookstores and its connections with Zondervan remain close. I'm told both companies share a building in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There's been a furor the past couple of weeks over FCS's decision to begin to do business on Sundays. Even National Public Radio has taken notice and put out a quite-good audio piece on the decision.

Without naming the man, some of the articles published on this matter cite a "well-respected evangelical theologian" as having been consulted by FCS's CEO and approving of the decision to open on the Lord's Day. Having heard indirectly that this theologian was, in fact, a friend of mine, I wrote and asked if he had, indeed, encouraged the Family Christian Stores to open on the Lord's Day?

He responded by explaining his counself with this rather terse statement, "I am not a sabbatarian."

To me, this misses the larger point. Regardless of one's position for or against the observance of the Lord's Day, there are pastoral issues at the heart of this decision and listening to the NPR piece makes them painfully obvious.

Here is the response I sent to my friend:

September 9, 2004

Dear (Brother),

Two of our congregation's three pastors are not sabbatarians, but having shepherded God's flock they know the importance of not allowing the idol of mammon to displace worship each week. And this was precisely the point that the most-famous-of-all non-sabbatarian pastor/theologians, John Calvin, also made:

First, under the repose of the seventh day the heavenly Lawgiver meant to represent to the people of Israel spiritual rest, in which believers ought to lay aside their own works to allow God to work in them. Secondly, he meant that there was to be a stated day for them to assemble to hear the law and perform the rites, or at least to devote it particularly to meditation upon his works, and thus through this remembrance to be trained in piety. Thirdly, he resolved to give a day of rest to servants and those who are under authority of others, in order that they should have some respite from toil." (Institutes, Book II, chapter 8, section 27. See also section 34.)

But there is no doubt that by the Lord Christ's coming the ceremonial part of this commandment was abolished. (Institutes, II, 8, 31.)

Although the Sabbath has been abrogated, there is still occasion for us: (1) to assemble on stated days for the hearing of the Word, the breaking of the mystical bread, and for public prayers; (2) to give surcease from labor to servants and workmen. (Institutes, II, 8, 32.)

Below you will find a link to a National Public Radio piece on this decision made by Family Christian Stores. A dear friend of mine ...brought this matter to my attention and sent me the material below, including the link to the NPR piece--which I listened to. (NPR mentioned your counsel without naming you.)

Have you listened to the piece?

It was so sad to hear the young female Bronx employee lament that being required to work on the Lord's Day now forces her to miss worship. Think of the impact this simple statement had on all those listening.

Following Calvin, FCS's CEO Browne should have been told that he ought not to place stumbling blocks in the paths of Christ's little ones, but rather to "give surcease from labor to (his)servants and workmen."


Tim Bayly