Two words: Red Letters.
In older versions of the Bible it was customary for the publisher to offset the words of Christ in a red font. This way, the reader could easily see the recorded words of Jesus.
Upon reading Christ’s words, many walk away with the idea that Jesus is a great moral teacher and an exemplary human being–but no more. In this way one might make him equivalent to Mohandas Gandhi.
But Gandhi never claimed that he was the Son of God–with the authority to forgive sins and the power to restore sinful humanity to its perfect Creator.
C.S. Lewis addressed the “great man” argument in Mere Christianity when he wrote:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that
people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral
teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing
we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not
be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with
the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of
Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of
God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a
fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at
His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any
patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not
left that open to us. He did not intend to.
What Lewis is saying is that you must accept all of Jesus–or none of him. I choose to accept all of Him, and that brings me back to the red letters. They are not simply great teachings, they are the blue print for our personal morality, our public agenda, and our community concerns. They lay out, in plenty of detail, exactly how we should live as Christians in the world.
I call this, the Red Letters Life.
Over the next few posts, I want to explore the Red Letters Life through four key dimensions of Christ’s words.
Love. The ethic of the Gospel is love. Not a mamby-pamby love. The love your enemies and die for your friends love. A Red Letters Life bleeds love.
Forgiveness. Christianity offers forgiveness of sins–not through works–but through grace. The red letters offer forgiveness, so what should the Red Letters Life offer?
Mercy. Time and again we see the red letters telling us that mercy triumphs over judgment. Jesus’ ministry is marked with mercy and compassion for those around Him.
Humility. As Paul wrote in Philippians 2, Jesus completely emptied Himself of His heavenly position, and we are expected to do likewise.
These four qualities are the building blocks of a Red Letters Life. Emulating these–in our lives and in our churches–is the bottom line of what God expects of our lives. Cultivating them requires radical obedience because they are not the predominant values of our culture.
Yet, emulating these teachings changes our relationship–to God, to each other, and to “the world.”
I appreciate your continued comments on these thoughts, and look forward to this discussion over the next several posts.