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Tony Campolo: Did Jesus Mean What He Said?

One of America's most controversial Evangelical authors and speakers says it's time we read the "red letters" of the Bible -- the words of Jesus. Then the mysteries of living finally become clear.

What if Christ really meant everything that He said?

That’s the challenge bestselling author Tony Campolo is leveling at traditional Christianity. He says we have gotten away from the simple, practical life teachings of Jesus.

“I think that when Jesus said love your enemies, He meant just that,” says the controversial campus speaker and author of scores of books. “When He said we should love our enemies, He probably meant we shouldn’t kill them. I think it’s pretty hard to read through the Sermon on the Mount and come up with any other conclusion.

“In that same sermon, Jesus said ‘Blessed are the merciful for they shall have mercy,’ Believe me, He meant it. So, how can we go on believing in capital punishment? Especially when He goes on in to say it’s no longer an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?”

Campolo cites Christ’s intervention in the street execution of a woman caught in adultery. The law of the day was clear – she was to be put to death. “She’s about to be stoned to death,” says Campolo. “Jesus comes upon them and forgives her of the sin, tells her to sin more and then sends her on her way.”

Campolo proposes in his new book Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said? written with Shane Claiborne, that it’s time to focus not on the teachings of Paul in the New Testament’s epistles nor the words of David and Solomon in the Pslams or Proverbs of the Old Testament, but on the actual words of Jesus, those printed in many Bibles in red ink.

A different Christianity emerges, he says – one committed to social justice and peace. However, this isn’t the liberation theology of Marxist Christians in the past. Campolo says “Red-Letter Christians” affirm the Bible as an infallible guide for faith and practice. However, they believe that the rest of the Bible can only be understood when read it from Christ’s perspective.

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