Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Black-letter Christians

Sometime ago, it became rather fashionable to identify oneself as a "red-letter" Christian. The implication was that the words of Jesus should give us the clearest direction when it comes to being his disciple. (Often times the designation was used as a foil against those who mindlessly follow Paul's instructions, ["I am of Christ, You are of Paul,"] as if Paul and Jesus were not on the same page--which is another topic altogether.)

To be sure, Jesus said some amazingly challenging, provocative, and transformational things (the parables!). But, merely parroting what he said (we eventually discover) seems to do more harm than good. We can argue over the Sermon on the Mount (did he really teach that we shouldn't defend ourselves?), quoting the "red-letter words" back to one another like weapons, as if the war of words will settle the matter. Fighting over "what Jesus really meant" seems to be our holy occupation, especially in the blogsphere.

But, the more I think about it, the more I want to become a "black-letter" Christian, known by what I do more than what I say. Indeed, the way Mark saw it, the black letters (works of Jesus) were more important to his gospel story. And, I hope the "black letters" of my life are more important to the gospel story too.

In other words, pay no attention to these words.


Matt E said...

This is very well said. Thanks for this. Would that we were all like the Lord we claim to follow, whose black letters and red letters coincide beautifully.

Aaron Allison said...

I hope the semester is shaping up well for you and your students. With the new school year starting, our youth group at the church is beginning to blossom again after what I refer to as the 'summer slump.' They are a great group of kids, but we have very few who are older than ninth grade, and many of them just haven't been taught the word or even what the gospel really is. With a revolving door of youth pastors over the last few years, these students have fallen through the cracks.

Our new youth pastor has a passion for teaching these kids how to live out the Christian life. I am blessed to minister with him and let the iron sharpen together! As we got started with the singing last night, I asked the students how many of them had invited a friend to church in the last two months. One hand went up amidst the crowd. We're a growing group, but I must admit I was a little disappointed that there weren't more.

Our first song, "You'll Come" by Hillsong, echoes Luke 4:18-19. I read this passage to the students before we began singing and told them that these verses were not only His mission, but ours as well (John 20:21)! I encouraged them to be different, and if they don't feel confident in saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" all over their school cafeteria, they could at least invite a friend to come with them to our youth group on Wednesday night.

I think that's what being a black letter Christian is all about. Live out your life in a way that draws other people to you, and then point them to Jesus. He has the words of life, the ability to heal any broken heart, to give sight to the blind, set free those who are oppressed. People need to hear the good news because they don't know Him, they don't have a concept of Jesus as Lord, and they need it more than anything. As much as we like to be pundits for rhetoric, our 'red-letter repetitions' aren't much more than a knockoff because the power behind them is Christ's, not ours. Thanks for your post, Dr. Reeves.