Thus says the LORD, “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not walk in it.” (Jeremiah 6:16—NKJV)

Our culture has become skeptical and self-absorbed more than any previous time in our nation’s history. It is no wonder the great traditions that characterized our nation have fallen into disfavor and, along with them, many religious traditions have vanished from recent memory. Even Christians, who alone are capable of discerning the richest value in the “old paths,” have grown bored with what meant so very much to our godly forebears. We have pursued the bewitching vagaries of cultural ferment in a chase that has no end—it just winds further away from God. We ought to be careful to not “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

An illustration of a change in tradition that has taken our nation less than fifty years to practically reverse is the observance of Sunday “blue laws.” Blue laws began in the Colony of Virginia in 1610. All businesses were to be closed on Sunday and everyone was to attend church. The Colony of Connecticut in the 1650’s had several blue laws on the books. “No one shall run on the Sabbath day, or walk in his garden or elsewhere, except reverently to and from meeting.” “No one shall travel, cook victuals, make beds, sweep house, cut hair, or shave, on the Sabbath day.” Apparently, these laws were written out on blue paper and therefore they became known as the “blue laws.”

For most of our nation’s history there have been laws governing permissible activities on “the Lord’s Day.” In general, stores were closed on Sunday. No shoes, clothing, furniture, appliances, alcohol, food and gasoline were sold. Some places forbade worldly employment as well. These types of laws persisted in many places into the 1980’s and there are still a few of them on the books to this very day. I remember my dad voicing his displeasure upon coming home from church on a 1970 Sunday afternoon when he heard one of our neighbors mowing his lawn. That was the first I had ever heard that it was a violation of the Blue Laws.

While those who have been born since the eighties would almost universally scorn the very idea of Blue Laws, it is a sad fact that the believers among them would share in the scorn. Rather than looking at these “puritanical” laws with something other than curiosity and contempt, authentic believers should ask the all important question, “Is there something beneficial for my soul I can glean from ancestral insight?”

Obviously, any thought of a “Christian Sabbath” is biblically untenable. There is ample evidence that Sunday was called “The Lord’s Day.” In the Roman world the Emperor’s day was the first Sunday of the month. It was easy for the early church to make every Sunday the Lord’s Day since Jesus rose on the first day of the week. It was such a seminal event that the church moved the day of religious services from the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday (Matthew 28:1, John 20:19, Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2, Revelation 1:10). Sunday was also the birthday of the church on the day of Pentecost. Out of the Ten Commandments there is only one not repeated anywhere in the New Testament—the fourth commandment—remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. The Sabbath rest was only for Israel (Exodus 31:16–17) while the church finds its rest from works of self-righteousness in Christ (Hebrews 4:7–12), not tied to a day in the week. The Jewish proscriptions and restrictions are no where in the Bible applied to the church and its observances of the Lord’s Day.

Knowing that one cannot legislate godliness, and that external observances are not a substitute for real faith, we know that Blue Laws do not a godly nation make, nor a godly man. So, what can be gleaned from this “walk down memory lane?” There is something about the old, well-worn paths of just men that is still to be retraced by their descendants today. Its mark is still on the landscape and we ought to see what they valued so highly. I believe that John’s use of the term in Revelation 1:10 is a good beginning for a biblical view of the first day of the week.

It was a day when John was worshipping, just as in the Acts of the Apostles, the gathering day for the church corporate. It was a day when spiritual acts and service were performed (2 Corinthians 9:12). It was a kind of “firstfruits” (Leviticus 23:11) giving God the first and the best. As the Jewish Sabbath was a reminder of the first great work of God (Creation), the Lord’s Day is to be a reminder of the second great work of God (Redemption). What biblical, Christian traditions do you observe that help you maintain Christian priorities and spiritual sensitivity that are drawn from the ways of godly men who have passed this way before you? Can you identify any? Trust and obey.