Here are the red letters for today’s study:
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
These word from Jesus were spoken during a heated discussion with the Pharisees but I believe they are intended for all of us. The Pharisee were part of the religious establishment at the time of Jesus. St. Paul was thought to be part of this group before his conversion. The Pharisees were a group that was fixated on man-made rules whereas Jesus was focused on God’s love so there were bound to be some conflicts between them. After all Jesus was an out-of-the-box kind of guy. Jesus had several bouts with them and he seldom had kind words to say. Remember that Jesus was a Jew so he was talking about some of the leader of his own religion! Anyway, so much for the background; let’s move on to the words themselves.
Words like the these I tend to classify among the “hard sayings” of Jesus. Words such as these are ignored by many in the Christian community since they seem to be in conflict with “faith alone”. But, they are so frequent in the Bible I personally don’t see how we can just pass over them. Jesus seems to say that God is listening to everything you say throughout your life and you will have to give account for your verbalizations on the day of judgment. Many Christians today say that God is not keeping score in your life as he has promised to forget all your sins if you only declare that Jesus is your Lord and Savior. Some also add repentence to the list. These words don’t seem to say that at all. Was Jesus mistaken? Did he take all these and similar words back later? I don’t know. It is a good thing that to God ten thousand years is like a day. If not I might have some angry people in line behind me on judgment day because I definitely have some words that will need accounting.
Will those careless words keep us out of heaven. If we have true faith definitely not! But, I believe that Jesus wants us to live by these words and others like them while we are on earth. We should do it as deep appreciation for what Jesus did to give us our salvation.
I’m going to be away from my computer for the next few days so will miss some of my regular postings. See you next week,
subtitle: [33,000 Christian Demoninations]
Here are our red letters for today.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Jesus told us that through unity, we would affect believers outside the faith by showing them the mission of Christ. He wanted us to stay in the faith as one group united together. Here we are 2000+ years later and have we listened to his words? Of course the answer is NO!! Christians are currently fractioned into about 33,000 different denominations! The primary cause of this division is doctrinal and Scripture disagreements. We just can’t seem to agree on what the Bible is supposed to be telling us. I’m sure each of the 33,000 groups is proclaiming to be the champion of the true words of the Bible. Most of us have an easy time agreeing on the authority of Scripture, but interpreting it has been a very different story.
Why not put scripture in context and study how the early church interpreted the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles? Who has a better understanding of the Gospel, the man in 2008 interpreting it for himself from a copy of a copy of a copy of the original text or the people who actually learned it at the feet of Jesus or the Apostles? By studying the history of the early Church, we can come to a better understanding of what those first generations of Christians actually believed. To me it seems almost ludicrous to think that our detached Sola Scriptura interpretation is more reliable than their theology and praxis. But, there are in fact many denominations who believe exactly that.
Eusebius was an early Christian historian. Many say he was the first. Eusebius’ historical account attests, as late as the 4th century that the Church was still arguing about which books constituted the New Testament. The New Testament was not the rule of Faith for the early Christians since a New Testament as such didn’t exist at that time and even if it did people were for the most part illiterate so they couldn’t read it even if they had gotten their hands on a very expensive copy. Instead, church teachings were passed down from generation to generation and kept pure by a clerical hierarchy. The undisputed historical record of what that early Church believed should be a more authoritative measure of the Faith than any modern interpretation based on Scripture alone? This is why traditional, historical Christianity has always wisely accounted Scripture and Tradition as two expressions (written and oral) of the same Gospel.
Many today agree that you must put all verses of the Bible in the context of which they were written. You can’t isolate a particular phrase or rule from the teachings around it. But, many of these same people then refuse to look at early church history to more thoroughly understand the words of Scripture but instead insist that the Bible alone is all they need. They do not take into account the church history or culture at the time to understand the underlying meanings of the New Testament text.
Unfortunately, it looks impossible for all of us Christians to ever be one as Christ instructed us. That is until the second coming. At that time I’m sure we will all be shown the errors of our ways. In the mean time let’s all try to be a little more tolerant of our fellow Christians understanding of scripture. Yes, there are absolute principles on which Christianity has to be based but most of our disagreements seem to do with the decoration of our Christian house not its foundation.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow so I thought this would be the most appropriate time to share with you a prayer that I have been using the last few years. It is definitely appropriate for tomorrow but can really be used almost any day of the year. The author of the prayer is Samuel F. Pugh. He died just before Christmas 2007 at the age of 103. He spent more that 70 years of his life in Christian ministry. He was also a renowned poet and author. Let us all be truly thankful for everything we have and also aware that there are those among us who need our help and prayers.
A Thanksgiving Prayer
(Samuel F. Pugh)
Oh, God, when I have food
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work, help me
to remember the jobless;
When I have a warm home,
help me to remember the homeless;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer;
And remembering, help me
to destroy my complacency
and bestir my compassion.
Make me concerned enough
to help, by word and deed,
those who cry out
for what we take for granted.
Let me start out by telling you that this post is not about Jesus being a radical but there is definitely some truth to that statement and I will address that in a future post. I know this title is kind of confusing. Is there really such a thing as an “ordinary” radical. I don’t know but that is what Shane Clairborne calls himself. Shane is one of those few people who really seems to live out the words of Jesus Christ. Yes, he is an out-of-the-box thinker and doer who is part of an organization called “The Simple Way”. Shane and the people in his group live a very simple community lifestyle. They take the words of Jesus to the streets of Philadelphia by witnessing, through their actions as well as words, to the poor and undernourished (both physically and spiritually). I sometimes like to think of myself as a radical. After all I was in college in the 60’s. But, to tell the truth, I was working 40-50 hours a week in order to pay my way through college and also taking almost a full academic load so there was really no time for those pesky demonstrations that were happening all around me at the time. I am kind of ashamed to say that I have lived my life pretty much as most others do. Maybe I am a radical in thought only but I have been trying to change that lately!
Let’s get back to Shane. He has written several books including one from which I pulled the moniker above. It is entitled “The Irresistible Revolution – living as an ordinary radical”. This book totally blew me away when I read it! How can a young man, at least young by my standards, have such wisdom about Christian living! Tony Campolo’s remarks at the front of the book does a very good job of expressing my thoughts. He wrote
“Shane expresses the kind of authentic Christianity that most of us are trying to avoid because the cost is too great. He proposes a lifestyle that prophetically proclaims what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the twenty-first century”.
I highly recommend this book, and any of the others he has written. But, I must admit these books are not for those who think we are doing just fine in our Christian living and outreach. I gave a copy to my pastor to read and the first thing he said after reading it was that “the author doesn’t think much of churches today and he is kind of a communist”. According to Wikipedia’s listing for Shane Clairborne, my pastor’s views are shared by other social conservatives in the Christian Evangelical community. I was expecting my pastor, like me, to hook up with the zeal and passion that Clairborne has for Christ but that was not to be. But don’t hold my pastor’s comments against me even if I am not running for president. Maybe I am a radical after all. If you have an open mind and are ready to admit that we, as 21st century Christian, can do a better job of living according to the words of Christ and in reaching out to the community (especially the youth) then you can learn things from this young man. Their website in listed in my blogroll if you care to visit them.
Maybe in the blogosphere the word trashing should be replaced with snarking but that is another issue. Let’s hit this head on. If you search the words “red letter Christian” on WordPress and other blogs you will find several sites by fellow Christians that are antagonistic to that phrase or even to the concept of using red letters. I must admit the word “trashing” might be a little strong for most of these criticisms but not all. People opposed to this concept seem to think that somehow if you concentrate on the red letters (i.e. the words of Christ) you are either a heretic or at least a misguided Christian needing correction. Giving priority to the direct words of Jesus seems almost sacrilegious to some of them. They cite 2Timothy 3:16 for their proof. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. To them this means that no words are more important than others. St Paul wrote the letter that is now recognized as 2 Timothy around AD 60. Many theologians believe that he was referring to the Jewish Old Testament. The reason for this is as follows. The Gospel of Mark, which is widely believed to be the first of the four gospels written was probably composed about the same time as 2Timothy. Therefore it was very unlikely that Mark’s gospel, or any of the other gospels which came later, was even available to Paul as he was writing these words. Of course Paul was a very devout and knowledgeable Jew before he became a Christian so he was very familiar with the Old Testament. Since it would be another 300+ years before anything resembling our present day Bible was even in existence Paul could not have been talking about the New Testament as we know it. But, I do agree that the New Testament , even if that is not what Paul was talking about , is also useful for teaching and training and such.
Even the term “God-breathed” in this text is highly debatable among many scholars of the Bible. Many believe that the original text, or should I say the earliest surviving text, is more appropriately translated to be “inspired by God”. To me “God-breathed” and “inspired by God” has two completely different meanings but I will not criticize others who think differently. Yes, I agree that all of the Bible, and also many of the early Christian writings that did not end up in the Bible, were inspired by God. But, for me I reserve the words “God breathed” to mean they came directly from Jesus’ mouth or were given directly to some of the OT prophets by God himself.
There is a centuries old ongoing debate in the Christian community between “inerrancy” and “infallibility” when it comes to the Bible. I fall into the camp of the latter but I will respect my Christian brothers who choose to think differently than me. One of the best things and one of the worst things about the Bible is that two people can read the same words and come away with two completely different meanings. It often happens that even one person will get two different meanings from one verse depending on where he/she is at on their road with Christ. Some of the sites that speak out against the red letters arrogantly assume that everything they believe is totally true and if you disagree with them then you must be “wrong”. I will not be one to assume that I, or anyone else for that matter, totally knows the heart of God. Won’t those who think that way be surprised when they reach the pearly gates.
I am bringing up this blog for several reasons.
- I am an evangelical Christian who doesn’t like how I am generally portrayed in the mainstream media. I admit that I am a more progressive Christian than perhaps most. I readily call myself a “bleeding heart”. I want to let the world know that there are Christians around who believe and vote on more than one or two issues. I hope by opening this blog I can find and share views with like minded people ( and even those who are not so like minded as long as they keep the dialog civil).
- Another reason is to simply have a place where I can record my thoughts about Christian living. Over the past 25 years, and especially the last 3 years, I have been reading extensively about Christian doctrine, theology, history, and practices. I just need a place to hash out all my thoughts and share my views with others.
- Another reason is that I sometimes believe that most Christians today do not pay enough attention to the actual words of Jesus as found in the Gospel texts. Of course, I will be getting into that in more detail as this blog matures. If we don’t pay attentions to God’s own words then who should we listen to and obey.
Let’s have fun sharing our personal roads to Christ. Of course we are all at various points along that road so, hopefully, we can learn from one another.
God’s Blessing to everyone,