I notice behavioral trends and patterns. It is how my brain is built. I’m also analytical, so I like to mull these observations and sort out why they might be. One trend that has come to my attention in recent years is that of professing believers identifying themselves as Red Letter Christians, implying that they focus on what Jesus actually said over the rest of scripture. There is an actual movement within Evangelicalism called Red Letter Christians, and they endeavor to create an evangelical movement that focuses on the teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly in regard to social issues (wikipedia). However, there are many folks who have simply heard the term, understand the focus is on Jesus’ words, and have climbed aboard the wagon but are not necessarily part of the actual movement created by Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo. Today, I will be addressing both groups: those who identify with the movement and those who have just adopted the concept.
If you consider yourself a Red Letter Christian, or are attracted to the idea, I offer the following for your consideration:
First of all, it is unbiblical to elevate the words of Christ above the rest of the Holy writ. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) It might seem admirable to focus exclusively on the words of Christ, after all Jesus is the focus of the Bible, right? (This is why I think many folks jump on the wagon without realizing what they are affirming) The problem with that is reminiscent of this issue in the first letter Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: Individuals among you are saying, “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos,” “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?… (1 Corinthians 1:12) All of Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for the believer. We are not to be divided by chosing to identify with a pet agenda, favored teacher, political view, cultural identity, etc.
If you are a Christian, you are a Christian. Not a ‘Christian-Left Christian’ or a ‘social justice Christian’ or a ‘Christ-follower’ or whatever else one may come up with to seem to separate themselves from ‘those folks over there’ who don’t represent me and my brand of Christianity.
Here’s my theory; it has several parts.
First of all, there are many, many problematic facets to the Red Letter Christian movement. I don’t have time to address each one, but it can be summed up with this: wonky theology. The movement is focused on political issues and social justice, rather than preaching the true gospel to a lost world. That’s the specific.
The general, or all-encompassing is this: identifying oneself as a Red Letter Christian, or a ‘liberal Christian’, or any other ‘Christian-and’ simply reveals a heart attitude that is more interested in asserting one’s own philosophy and authority, whereas true Christianity is all about submission to God and His Word. In other words, the age-old sin of rebellion. True Christians recognize that Jesus is Lord over their lives. That includes their opinions and morals. Rebels don’t like moral absolutes. Redeemed, regenerate persons submit to the absolute sovereignty of God and His moral law over their lives. They realize that their will needs to come under submission to His, and their perspective and opinions need to be conformed to His. People who want to separate themselves out and emphasize certain aspects of Scripture while rejecting other large swaths, are not in submission to God. They want to be the captain of their own destiny, blind to the fact that it is a grave and serious possibility that God will let them. They won’t like what they find when they arrive there.
Bottom line: people who try to separate themselves out all while holding on to the name of Christ are the most dreadful examples of Romans 1. You see, they know the truth and believe that they can bypass God’s authority by acknowledging it with a little shout-out (“Yeah, I’m a Christian, but not like them. I believe this way”), all while shaking their fists in God’s face by insisting they define what the truth really is. Could true believers be caught up in this, without realizing all of the implications? That certainly could be a possibility, especially if they just jumped on the wagon feeling like it was admirable to focus on Jesus words. If that is the case, God will sort them out in their sanctification and discipline. But I believe many are not true believers. If you identify with this movement, or any other Christian+and movement, I urge you to check yourself, to see if you are truly in the faith. Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5) If you find yourself outside of orthodoxy, repent and fall on the only rock who can save: Jesus the Christ!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Further Reading and Study:
What are Red Letter Christians? Article by GotQuestions?