taking the words of Jesus seriously

From time to time, we Red Letter Christians are confronted with the critique that our most serious error is that we discount the black letters of the Bible. Nothing could be further from the truth. We readily declare that without the black letters in the Bible we would have very little in the way of a solid theology. Consider that we would not have a belief system that declares, as do the black letters recorded in Ephesians 2:8-9, that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by our good works.

 

Undoubtedly, our theologies would be sparse without the writings of Paul. I grew up, however, in numerous church-sponsored Bible studies that seem in retrospect to have been focused almost entirely on the Pauline Epistles. What was lacking in those days was the kind of balance that is provided by the Gospels—and specifically by those red letters in the New Testament that highlight the social justice teachings of Jesus about the Kingdom of God. The good theology provided by Paul’s writings needs the balance of the prescriptions for the radical lifestyle provided by the teachings of Jesus (indeed, Jesus helps us to see that these prescriptions are there in Paul’s writings too).

 

Theology must have at its side the call to participate with Jesus in raising up oppressed people and meeting the needs of the poor as are emphasized in those red letters of the Bible. Both are held high in the New Testament, and we need both.

 

The Jesus revealed in the red letters of the Bible declared that He did not come to abolish the writings of the Hebrew Bible (i.e. the Old Testament) but to fulfill them. The laws of Moses pointed beyond themselves to the higher morality of Jesus as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5: 5-6). The prophesies about The Messiah that we find in the Hebrew Bible were actualized in Jesus (see Psalm 22 and Is. 54) and were the sources for the sermons of the first century church. The cries for social and economic justice preached in both the major and minor prophets are what Jesus legitimated in His many declarations about the new social order that He wills and prays to become a reality here on earth – “as it is in Heaven.”

 

We Red Letter Christians want to draw attention to the good news that Jesus, through His death and resurrection, not only provided personal salvation to all who put their faith in Him, but also declared that He was initiating a revolution wherein the kingdom of God would become historically real.

 

The Red Letter Revolution is not only about preaching a savior who forgives sins and promises eternal life, but who also declared that the shalom of God was breaking loose in the here and now. We’re about furthering this kingdom message that is declared in both the red letters and the black letters of the Bible. We declare the whole gospel for the whole world. We want to help make Jesus and what He had to say in the red letters of the Bible the lens through which the entire Bible is read.

 

About The Author

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https://www.redletterchristians.org

Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, and organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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