Pastor’s Friday Comments (01.10.20)

A few years ago I was browsing through a discount bookstore when I found a copy of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. That’s the version that we read in worship and that is in the study Bible that I use, so I already had several copies, but it was a very reasonable price and it’s always good to have another one to give away or to put in a convenient place.

It was a “red letter edition,” which meant the words in the Gospels attributed to Jesus were printed in red. That didn’t matter to me one way or the other, but, as I say, it was a good price, so I picked it up.

It was sometime later when I realized the reason that this particular copy was so reasonably priced. Clearly stamped on the spine were the words “Red Letter Edition.” However, when you turned to the Gospels, every word was printed in black ink, just like the rest of the contents. Evidently, they had bound the version in the wrong cover.

Since the Gospel writers were clear about when it was Jesus who was doing the talking, it certainly wasn’t essential that his words be singled out by the color of ink in which they were printed. Scholars may debate whether something is an accurate transmission of what Jesus actually said, but Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John made it obvious by their prose when Jesus was speaking.

I thought about that non-red-letter-Bible the other day when I happened to find the website of a group that calls themselves “red letter Christians.” Their stated mission is, “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”.

I happen to agree with the political and social stands that they are taking on issues of the day. You may not, but if you are serious about your Christian faith, it’s hard to disagree with their premise. Because Jesus is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), our task is to understand what he taught and what he commissioned his followers to do, and then to do that.

We are not empowered to decide what we think a Christian should do and then try to back that up with selected passages of Scripture that, when taken out of context, appear to support a position that we are comfortable in taking. We are certainly not allowed to put words in the mouth of the Master that he did not say. And as discerning followers of Christ, we are not to confuse the pronouncements of self-appointed religious spokespersons with the authentic words of the Son of God.

Notice that I can assert all those tenets without reference to any particular partisan issue, political party, or social stance. It covers everything and everybody. If you’re a Christian, learn what Jesus said, and do that.

If for some (inexcusable) reason you don’t have the time or inclination to do that, then do this: Share the love of God with everyone. No exceptions, no qualifications, no reservations. Love everybody. Those words are written in red all the way through the Scriptures and were lived out in the red blood of the One who died to show the world how to live. You don’t need a red letter Bible to tell you that. That’s our job. Let’s do it.