What if We Were a Red Letter Church?

What if We Were a Red Letter Church? March 3, 2019

Some of the pieces I write get considerable attention and stimulate a lot of debate in the comments readers leave. Sometimes, between the comments posted directly to my articles or in some of the big social media pages on which they get shared, they’ll add up to many hundreds or even into the thousands. When that happens, I rarely try to read them, it’s just too much to keep up with. Plus, some of it starts to get pretty negative and hateful. But sometimes, before the comments begin to pile up, I will read some of them and, when I’m feeling a little frisky, I will occasionally jump into the debates. Often, some of the themes that come out in the comments about my articles end up giving birth to other articles. This is one of them.

The other day, as I was reading some comments on another of my articles, I saw someone post a scripture from 1 Corinthians to support their discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men.

1 Corinthians 6:9

In this verse, Paul does appear to condemn homosexuality. However, the context isn’t given. Through the work of biblical scholars far more qualified to speak to this than me, I’ve come to believe that when the bible speaks of homosexuality, it is really speaking about the kind of debauchery that existed in Sodom and Gomorah or in some segments of Greek and Roman society, where it was nothing but amoral lusting. It is my understanding that in biblical times, open, committed, and loving same-sex relationships were not really a common thing.

That said, just for kicks, let’s set that point aside for now and just assume that Paul would also condemn long-term, monogamous, loving same-sex unions.

Here is the problem I have with the conservative evangelical line of thinking when they go after the rights of the LGBTQ community: Why do they single out that “sin”? Why do we never see fundamentalist Christian conservatives calling out their brethren for say, gluttony? What about the command to treat your body as a temple, Christian smokers? What about the fact that Jesus said having lust in your heart is the very same sin as if you’d committed adultery?

For the record, I don’t personally have any issues with anyone who commits those sins. I have a litany of my own sins with which to concern myself, just as all Christians do. But I do feel the need to call out Christians who want to hone in on one or two pet sins in order to marginalize people and strip them of their Constitutional rights.

To the person who posted that scripture to poke at me for my support of the LGBTQ community, I came back with another scripture found just a few chapters later in the very same letter from Paul.

For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

1 Corinthians 11:6

As I sat in church this morning, I scanned the assembled crowd and counted not one woman with a covered head. Not one. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t even cross my mind, but it did this morning. So what gives? Why is Paul’s admonition about men sleeping with men so vitally important but his condemnation of women going to church with uncovered heads is completely ignored? The answer, to me, is simple: Too many churches have put politics before the Red Letters.

So what if churches became Red Letter Churches? What if they LISTENED to the words of Jesus and ACTED how he instructed us to act?

Here’s what I think would happen:

  • They would be too busy spreading love and serving others to worry too much about politics.
  • They would immediately begin to shed their reputations as judgmental, divisive hypocrites.
  • They might begin to attract the marginalized of society rather than repel them. Jesus was a magnet for the marginalized of his time, much to the chagrin of the church leaders who chastised him.

How would this look in application? Here are my thoughts on some of the most divisive issues of our times.

Abortion

A Red Letter Church wouldn’t have to endorse abortions, they’d just have to stop using it as a political issue to divide. People wouldn’t have to feel strapped to any one political party platform over this one issue. Rather, they could reach out with love to the women who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy. Instead of condemning places like Planned Parenthood, churches could reach out and form partnerships with them. They could offer counseling for the women where they could connect them with resources in the community to make other paths and options more palatable and easy to find. And, if after all that, a woman still ended up choosing to have an abortion, they could still love her and welcome her to join their congregation of equally struggling sinners. Pretty simple, really.

Social Justice

A Red Letter Church would recognize the fact that Jesus Christ was a social justice warrior. Then maybe fundamentalist Christians could stop using that term as a put down. When a Red Letter Christian sees a professional football player solemnly kneeling during the National Anthem, for instance, their heart breaks for the amount of pain that athlete is reflecting in his brave protest. They focus on the issues that athlete is trying to shed light upon and let empathy and love fill their hearts rather than hate and bigotry. A Red Letter Christian would never put nationalism ahead of empathy and love. A Red Letter Church would pray for the causes of those athletes who knelt rather than post angry memes about respecting a flag. That’s all there is to it.

LGBTQ Rights

A Red Letter Church would welcome LGBTQ individuals and couples to sit and worship right along side all the gluttons, smokers, lusters, liars, braggarts, people who put things before God, people who covet their neighbors’ things, people who hold grudges, you know, sinners. And that would be the end of that.

So why aren’t there more Red Letter Churches? Seems to me it would be a pretty easy change to make. Basically, you’d just need to start acting the way Jesus called us to act and quit searching for isolated scriptures to wield like a sword.

After all, those who live by the sword will die by the sword.

 

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