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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Red Letter Christian

Moved from my old blog site.
Originally posted July 8, 2009

Let me start with a little perspective as to where I’m coming from these days. Once upon a time...forget it, long story.

To the chase: I grew up attending some pretty conservative churches. My wife and I finally decided to try something a little different. It wasn’t that our theology was changing, but the messages that we were receiving didn’t jive with what we thought scripture was telling us. Why so much anger? Why all this focus on gays, alcohol, abortion? Do we really need to hear how bad our sin is every Sunday? Pretty sure we got that message a long time ago...enough already. Where’s the love, service, feeding of the sheep part? WHERE’S THE PEACE AND THE GRACE? Time to look around.

Michelle and I visited Canyon Creek Presbyterian Church in Richardson, TX and our lives were changed forever. The conversations were different and people engaged us in very different and real ways. We saw facades come down and ministry at work.

Although we have since moved to Georgetown, TX (in the Austin area) and now attend a different church, the seeds that were planted in us at that church continue to grow and shape us.

Over this July 4th weekend, my family and I gathered with friends at my in-law’s lake house in East Texas. I had the opportunity to watch more than a little national news...for hours. Not just the prime time stuff, but the 24-hour variety with the requisite crawl across the bottom. Discussion ensued among those watching. All of us present were Christians, but some of the views were worlds apart.

How is it that we’ve convoluted His message so much that we find ourselves arguing amongst one another over so many things? The Body of Christ is certainly not working as one cohesive unit. The pharisees missed the boat completely, buried in the details of the law, but missing the point and the spirit of the law. It would appear that there are modern day pharisees among us. And we are them.

Which brings me to today’s topic: Red Letter Christianity. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Red Letter Christians:

Red-Letter Christians believe that Evangelicalism has been exploited by both right-wing and left-wing political movements, and they endeavor to create an Evangelical movement that focuses on the teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly in regard to social issues. "Red-Letter" refers to New Testament verses printed in red letters to emphasize the actual words that Jesus spoke without the use of quotations (see Red letter edition). While many Christians have defined themselves as such over the years, a mass-market movement was initiated by authors Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis who felt the religious right spend too much time on two issues: abortion and homosexuality. They believe Christians should be promoting biblical values such as peace, building strong families, the elimination of poverty, and other important social justice issues.[1]

The social issues valued by Red-Letter Christians include taking care of the poor, spreading the Gospel (see also the Great Commission), and loving one's enemies. They believe that these are the issues that Jesus spoke of directly, and therefore these issues should be political priorities. Other issues such as homosexual rights, abortion, and war are viewed as important but over-emphasized by both liberals and conservatives.

On the reason for creating Red-Letter Christians, Tony Campolo said, "The purpose of this gathering was not to create a religious left movement to challenge the religious right, but to jump-start a religious movement that will transcend partisan politics."[2]. Campolo has released a book to help explain this, called Red Letter Christians, A Citizen's Guide to Faith and Politics (Regal Books, February 2008).

If we say we are followers of Jesus Christ, it’s time to return to the spirit of His teachings and drop the pharisee-esque behavior of judgment and condemnation - that’s simply not our place. Jesus spoke much about feeding, healing, serving, and loving. Not so much about war, casting out those not like us, tax policy, etc. What did he say about hatred? He was against it.

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