Christianity 201

February 18, 2017

Interpreting Christianity Through the Jesus Lens

Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written  John 21:25 ESV

Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne are the principle writers behind a website called Red Letter Christians.  Their “about” page begins:

Mission

Staying true to the foundation of combining Jesus and justice, Red Letter Christians mobilizes individuals into a movement of believers who live out Jesus’ counter-cultural teachings.

About Us

The goal of Red Letter Christians is simple: To take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and especially embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount.

By calling ourselves Red Letter Christians, we refer to the fact that in many Bibles the words of Jesus are printed in red. What we are asserting, therefore, is that we have committed ourselves first and foremost to doing what Jesus said. Jesus calls us away from the consumerist values that dominate contemporary America. Instead, he calls us to meet the needs of the poor. He also calls us to be merciful, which has strong implications in terms of war and capital punishment. After all, when Jesus tells us to love our enemies, he probably means we shouldn’t kill them.

Some people think this means setting aside the Pauline epistles, or the entire Old Testament. Recently, Tony wrote the following responding to questions and critics. Click the title to read at source:

To Our Critics: Jesus is Our Lens

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.

 

 

 

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