I was intrigued when I read Z Arima’s article, “Let the Boys Play (and the Girls Too)” in a previous edition of the Bagpipe. Students working in the Great Hall on Sundays has been something I’ve struggled with as well, especially when that work prevents students from attending worship services in the morning. However, I would like to present the flip side of the argument by simply stating that working in Chartwells and competing in sports competitions are very different things.
I appreciated that the author used Scripture to back up his point by quoting Mark 2:27. It is better, however, to look at this Scripture verse in context to figure out what is being discussed. In Mark 2:23-27, Jesus and His disciples are walking together in a grain field and the disciples start picking the grain because they are hungry. When they are accused of working on the Sabbath by the Pharisees, Jesus defends His followers by bringing up historical examples of God allowing man to eat on the Sabbath. However, this does not give us license to do whatever we want on the Sabbath. Jesus was simply making the point that eating is necessary for man and so it is allowed on the Lord’s Day.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, a document held to be faithful to Scripture by the Reformed tradition, states it this way: “This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men...do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their wordly employments and recreations, but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.” (Chapter XXI, par. VIII) This is merely to tease out that the main point of the Lord’s Day is to rest and worship God, except in the cases of necessity and mercy. From my point of view, I think providing food for around 700 students, many of whom have no mode of transportation on campus, better qualifies as an act of necessity than competing in an athletic event, although I love sports as much as the next person.
Yet it still frustrates me that students who work morning shifts in Chartwells are prevented from going to church. I agree that this is a problem and something Covenant needs to address. After all, God takes worship on the Lord’s Day very seriously, as did His people. Isaiah 58:13 calls us to keep our feet from breaking the Sabbath and not to do as we please on the Lord’s Day but instead to delight in our rest and worship of God. I believe that keeping students from public worship on Sundays requires very serious questioning, but I still maintain that those who work in Chartwells are performing an act of necessity, whereas sporting events are not exactly vital for everyone.
God rested on the seventh day, not because He was tired, but because He knew we would be tired. While it is true that using our physical gifts in the service of God glorifies Him, I don’t think that was what He had in mind when He told us to worship Him on the Lord’s Day. John 4:24 informs us that, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” I don’t know how often the average Christian dwells on God and His greatness while participating in an athletic event, but I know I myself don’t. I’m not sure that we can say sports are a form of worship, at least not in the holy sense required on the Sabbath, but I do respect Z’s arguments. I just think we need to make sure we are keeping the holiness of the Lord’s Day as something of utmost importance in our minds instead of trying to justify or condemn every activity.