In this occasional series of articles we seek to introduce you to some of the speakers, writers & movements that inspire us here at the Church Works website. We hope you will be as provoked as we are to become passionate about the practical expression of our faith.
Veteran writer & speaker Tony Campolo is one of the founders of this movement. He states that 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.”
Ironically, it was a secular Jewish country-and-western disc jockey in Nashville, Tennessee who first suggested that title. During a radio interview with Jim Wallis, that DJ declared, “You’re one of those Red-Letter Christians – you know, the ones who are really into all those New Testament verses that are in red letters!” When Jim said, “That’s right!” he answered for all of us. 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.
Campolo writes “The message of those red-lettered Bible verses is radical, to say the least. If you don’t believe me, just take a few minutes to read Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In it, Jesus calls us away from the consumerist values that dominate Western society. 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.
Gandhi once said that everybody in the world knows what Jesus teaches in those red lettered verses — except Christians. Today, lots of people share that same kind of disappointment with the Western church. We want to change that. Applying the teachings of Jesus to our lives in such complicated times is difficult, but that is what Red Letter Christians is all about.”