Last Friday Arizona became the first state to pass a bill that will allow for-profit business owners to claim a religious exemption in service to customers and treatment of employees. The bill, which would have allowed business owners to refuse to serve gay people and discriminate between genders in terms of pay, was vetoed by the governor yesterday.
I recently went through a word study of grace in the Bible. In the NASB, the word grace appears approximately 125 times. A good amount of the time the word is used either in greeting at the beginning of an epistle or at the conclusion of an epistle. It happened so often that it almost made me think that God’s grace might be something that only applied to Christians, a concept that only made sense in discussing what God had done for us.
We spend a lot of time during the Christmas season talking about things that don’t have much to do with what the holiday commemorates. There is certainly a lot of misguided focus on gift-giving and consumerism. Some Christians and television stations are overly focused on a war on Christmas that is not nearly as extensive as they seem to want it to be. The cliché is that Jesus is the reason for the season – and that is certainly true. If we are going to celebrate the coming of the Savior during this holiday season, then it is important for us to understand who Jesus is.
I am tempted to use this space at this time to talk about some of the interesting things going on this week. On Tuesday the Supreme Court decided to hear cases involving the religious rights of corporations. As a budding church-state scholar this is right in my wheelhouse and a fascinating and complex religio-political issue.
Recently I sat through a sermon about the evils of jewelry. The principle of modesty is well-established in Adventism and for many years this meant that no jewelry should be worn. It is only in my lifetime that even wedding bands have been accepted. I believe in the principle of modesty. However, I do not believe that the Bible specifically calls for believers to abstain from wearing jewelry. I know many conservative Adventists would disagree, as did the speaker that day.
Lately I have been fascinated by questions about Christianity that are foundational but that very few ever seem to address in any substantive manner. When these questions do get discussed I generally find that we talk about them in ways that are not helpful to people that have just discovered faith in Jesus, and they reinforce misguided ideas amongst those of us who have been in the faith for a long time. Many Evangelical Protestants (including Adventism) consider themselves people of the book. The cry since the Reformation has been sola scriptura!
Recently I have been thinking about some of the most basic questions about Christianity that we often gloss over. For example, “What does it mean to be like Jesus?” We talk about this a lot, and rightly so. As disciples of Christ, it is of the most important questions that we should answer. For over 20 years the questioning phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” has been used and overused in Christian circles. But what does it really mean to be like Jesus?
In the sports world over the last month, one of the biggest stories in the world of sports was NBA center Jason Collins coming out of the closet and revealing that he is gay. As I reflect on his revelation, and some of the criticism he received, I am reminded of the beginning of the Adventist Church. The SDA Church began as an outgrowth of what is now called The Great Disappointment.