Shopping at Wal-Mart on Sabbath

A few Sabbaths ago, Sue and I were headed to Seattle for appointments. With rain pouring down, our windshield wipers were a definite necessity. Then we heard it, thump, thump, swish, clunk. One of the blades went soaring over the roof. Retrieving it on I-5 at 70 mph was not an option. What to do? We inquired at a gas station and were told the closest assistance was at Wal-Mart a few exits up. My first thought was, “Oh, great! It’s Sabbath, I’m in my suit and headed into Wal-Mart. And (since I’m not totally inconspicuous in the Northwest) if the wrong saint sees me this could make a great story!" Please understand that I don't even like to purchase gasoline or buy a park entrance pass on the Sabbath. Nevertheless, with no other alternative, I was in and out with a new blade installed in ten minutes or less.

This little incident reminded me of another one that happened to a good friend of mine, who was at the time General Conference vice president. He had been on a hectic overseas trip. Upon his return, with both his body clock and calendar all scrambled, he fell into his bed exhausted. When he awakened, his wife was gone so he decided to mow the lawn. Soon he was circling his front yard in full stride behind his mower. Various neighbors and subsequently his pastor, who lived down the street, came by and he smiled and waved enthusiastically. He was well into the job when a thought struck him. What day is this? Oh no, it’s Sabbath. He just knew that by the time church was over the whole Washington, D.C., area would think he had apostatized. And with the notorious Adventist grapevine the world church would be salivating over this juicy bit of gossip.

He hastily put the mower away and began the agonizing wait for church to be over so he could call and explain to the pastor. And when he reached the pastor his response to my friend was, “Oh, I didn’t tell anyone. I knew there must be some plausible explanation.” Praise the Lord! As I recount these two stories I have to ask myself, would I have acted as nobly? How often have we all been quick to judge our brother when, if we only knew, there would have been a legitimate explanation.

So if there were any Adventists watching when I stopped at Wal-Mart a few Sabbaths ago, thank you for not judging me. Thank you for not announcing in your church that you’d just seen the union president come out of Wal-Mart that morning. And thank you for modeling a familiar Bible verse, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

June 01, 2006 / Editorial