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the Christian ministry of the whole people of God.

Sunday's last stand

Did you know that an alliance of Ikea, Tesco, B&Q and Asda is lobbying to abolish the present six-hour limit to Sunday opening? Or that one week remains to express your view as the Government tries to make sense of stores’ claims that everyone wants longer opening, while NOP find 72% of interviewees would prefer a regular shared day off with their family and friends to more time to shop on Sunday (

Meanwhile the report of a cross-party group of Parliamentarians alleges that a recent DTI enquiry takes little account of the social effects of Sunday opening ( If you are not yet aware of the Relationships Foundation, a newish group exploring non-economic yardsticks for ‘progress’, the full report is available on their web site (

My personal testimony is that I've never looked back after deciding always to try to ‘keep the sabbath’. As a young father, I didn't claim to understand why it was important, I just knew in my heart that God was saying that it was important. For us, it was almost a challenge to obedience. Since then I have learnt the value of a rhythm of life, of a weekly focus when, without thinking of God every minute, there was a special awareness that there is more to life than doing and earning (see, for example, Exodus 31.13 or Ezekiel 20.20). I learnt what Jesus meant when he said, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” (Mark 2.27).

Challenged by growing youngsters, we found how difficult it was to discriminate between recreational activity (re-creation: renewing the image of God in us) and the pursuit of pleasure, particularly necessary when others were required to work in order for our sabbath to be enriched. Justifiable if they have a clear day off later and an opportunity to worship should they choose? And when is it right to eschew buying an ice cream on a Sunday because it makes another work? Or not to dash down to the shop for a forgotten ingredient because to do so while campaigning against Sunday trading would be hypocritical? In this regard, the promise made by Israel returning from exile, wanting to get ‘back on God's track’, is interesting - see Nehemiah 10.31.

While trying to take a break from ‘doing jobs’, we had to learn about ‘sheep in pits’ (Matthew 12.11-12) and be willing to help others. We learnt, too, how easy it was for rightly-rooted actions to change insidiously into religious observance, or how following God's ways in the minutiae can be made irrelevant by much greater failings - see Isaiah 58 for examples. And in all this, rather than being critical of others, trying to recognise how blessed we were in having the freedom and relative prosperity that made these choices possible.

If you have views, send them to or to Consumer and Competition Directorate, DTI Bay 418, 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H OET. Before April 14!

Yours in Christ

Peter Nicholls


...we found how difficult it was to discriminate between recreational activity (re-creation: renewing the image of God in us) and the pursuit of pleasure...

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