“Well, I’m a red letter man myself,” he blustered. “If the Bible doesn’t say anything about it in the red letters – if Jesus didn’t say it, I don’t pay attention.”
The scenario arose when another person at the table said something about her belief that abortion is wrong. This man took the opportunity to declare that he couldn’t find any problem with abortion from a Christian standpoint because there are no red letter words in the Bible to back up that conviction. That is, Jesus did not directly speak the words, “Abortion is wrong,” and therefore this man believed it was not an issue for Christians to concern themselves with.
The idea of being a “red letter Christian” that this man espoused comes from a non-denominational movement within Christianity, backed by Tony Campolo, who writes on the website redletterchristians.org: “By calling ourselves Red Letter Christians, we refer to the fact that in many Bibles the words of Jesus are printed in red. What we are asserting, therefore, is that we have committed ourselves first and foremost to doing what Jesus said.”
I only overheard the brief conflict at the table that day. Still, ever after, it haunted me. His words kept coming back to my mind, nagging, demanding to be answered. My thoughts kept returning to one passage of Scripture – not red letter words from Jesus, but John’s words in John 1:1-3 (NIV). These words describe Jesus as the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
Here, John describes the indivisible fullness of Jesus. There is more to Jesus than just the red letter words that He spoke in the New Testament. Jesus did not just come into being at the start of the New Testament, speak some wise words, and leave. In Genesis 1:1, Jesus was there “in the beginning.” He gave life and meaning to those words and all the words in Scripture since then. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4).
None of the words of Scripture can be divided from Him, and His authority can’t be withdrawn from them, because He is the one that binds them together, along with the whole scheme of history. All of Scripture points to Jesus.
As “the Word,” Jesus Christ is the incarnation of the teachings and promises of Scripture. As Colossians 1:17 (NIV) says, “He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.” He is the center of all things – all times, all events, and all the words of God in Scripture whether they be printed in red letters or not.
Ultimately, he is the Hero, the central character, the Speaker and Doer and Mover of all the story of Scripture.
A follower of Christ cannot be just a red letter Christian. All Scripture is centered on the eternal reality of Jesus Christ. Considering that all of Scripture is supported by His life, His eternal and constant presence, all the words could deserve to be highlighted in flaming red.