There is a problem when our reflex action is “Jesus didn’t really mean to say….” It’s almost like a scene from a Monty Python skit involving a bunch of religious leaders debating Scripture. No, Jesus really did mean for us to deny ourselves and lay down our lives for him (Luke 9:23) and consider all other loves as hate in comparison with love of him (Luke 14:26). Jesus did call us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44), and give sacrificially to those who cannot elevate our careers—namely, the poor. Because the kingdom of God has been given to us we are not to cease caring for the poor; rather, because the kingdom of God has been given to us we are to care for the poor (Luke 12:32-34).
We must take to heart all those red letters in Scripture. Of course, we must take to heart all the black letters, too. There should not be a canon within a canon, but Christ really is the center of the canon.
Red letter and black letter Christianity should not be equated with red political states (Republican), or blue political states (Democrat), for that matter. However and unfortunately, Evangelicalism has so often been associated with Republican politics (red), and wrongly framed in terms of what we are against rather than what we are for. Evangelicals should not be associated with elephants and donkeys, but with the lion who is the lamb (Revelation 5:5-6), longing for the day when the lamb will lie down with the wolf (Isaiah 11:6).
As we Christians continue to take to heart Jesus’ red letters and all the other letters in the Bible too, as centered in him, we will come to celebrate increasingly Jesus’ death and resurrection life and his holy enemy love. In turn, we will cultivate an all-encompassing theology and ethic of life in a world so often fixated with bloodshed, warfare, and death.
This piece is cross-posted at The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and at The Christian Post.