And Coming...

"She-Bear in the Beautiful Garden" is an allegory for children of all ages, written and illustrated by Ellen Gillette. Order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Red Letter Challenge

I found this photo on a Bible commentary site
but liked it because Jesus looks a little
like Liam Neeson, doesn't he?
Maybe you've never read the Bible, not cover to cover, not even the shortest verse ("Jesus wept."John 11:35). Maybe you had one of those evangelical check-the-box mornings and are patting yourself on the back for Quiet Time spent in prayer and the Word. Maybe you're a Bible scholar, maybe you think the Bible is one big collection of myths and fairy tales.

I want to challenge you to read something, whether it's for the first time ever or for the umpteenth time since you got saved at a youth meeting in high school. Commonly known as The Sermon on the Mount, it's three chapters in the book of Matthew. Matthew was one of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew who lived roughly 2000 years ago, who was hated by the religious leaders of his day because he hung out with the outcasts of society and rocked their neat little black-and-white, good-and-evil, heaven-and-hell worlds.

The book of Matthew has 27 chapters. I'm just asking you to read three of them. If you pick up a copy of the Bible somewhere, most of those three chapters may be printed in red ink. Some Bibles print the actual words of Jesus, what he said inside quotation marks, in red. Why? Maybe you assume it is to add significance, as if they needed more. Or so they'd be easier to spot on a page.

Actually, it was a magazine editor's idea. According to Wikipedia, the editor of The Christian Herald in 1899, Louis Klopsch, asked his mentor what he thought of a New Testament with Jesus's words printed in red and his mentor, the Rev. Talmadge, said (I paraphrase) "Well, it couldn't hurt, and it might just help." The Red Letter Bible was born, popular since 1901.

Keep Reading

I challenged you to read Matthew 5-7, and you may be thinking...why doesn't she shut up so I can go do it? Go ahead - what you'll find in those chapters is imminently more important and more beautiful than anything here. But if you want a bit of background before you accept the challenge, here it is.

Today, there's something called the Red Letter Christian Movement that focuses, radically, on just the red parts, because in their way of thinking, what Jesus said is more important than what anyone else said. I have to agree. Not that you throw the rest out, but everything else should be taken in context, as commentary on Truth. Yes, yes -- I can hear pages rattling in the background while you look up the favorite rebuttal verse: Paul's reminder found in 2 Timothy 3:15-17:
 16All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Remember, though, if you have your ecumenical knickers in a twist, Paul was talking only about the Old Testament at the time he wrote those words. The New one hadn't come along yet. It wasn't even being finished writing, much less canonized (circa 305, there-abouts). Even so, Paul also wrote to the Colossian believers that:

 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Paul, in other words, gave Jesus's words every bit as much emphasis as the folks who printed them in red.

A Quick Overview

The Sermon on the Mount is called that for a very good reason: Jesus sat down on a mountain to teach the crowd that had followed him and his disciples that day. He started out by blessing them, specifically reminding them that God wanted to bless them. They were, for the most part, living under harsh Roman rule, with an occupying army to deal with on top of everything else. That first "blessing" part is why it's sometimes called the Beattitudes, meaning "blessedness." In Sunday school they like to say it's the BE Attitudes: Be humble, be good, be....  But it's cool just the way it is. Why do we have to try and cute-sy the Truth up?

Jesus spoke simply to them about practical matters of their faith (the crowd was mostly Jewish, as he was), but not just "obey the rules." Instead, he consistently went beyond, explaining that although they'd always heard one thing, he wanted them to understand the principle, not just give lip-service or white knuckle compliance.

It is the principles of Matthew 5-7 I want you to consider, at least once in your life if you've never read the passage. It is the principles of Matthew 5-7 I want to jolt you out of spiritual lethargy if you're thinking "Sure, sure, heard it a thousand times. Yada, yada, house built on solid rock. Got it."

You don't.

How can I say that? Because every time I read the Sermon on the Mount, I see something new, and I think you just might too. And because, looking around (and in the mirror) I don't see a Church (or a Christian) that is necessarily behaving and speaking as if Jesus's words had registered. Really and truly registered, sinking down into the deepest consciousness that is able to affect lasting change.

I Dare You

Don't take my word for it, though. Read it for yourself. I dare you. I double-dog-dare you to read Matthew 5-7 straight through, silently or out loud, and NOT hear its simple, yet powerful, eloquence. I'm not asking you to join the Red Letter Movement, or join a church, or believe in Jesus. I'm just asking you to read three chapters in a book. And if you don't have the book, you can read online:

I think you'll be pleased with the words. Comforted. Instructed. Maybe a few "ouches" here and there, but mostly, the refreshing sound of Truth. Oh, and by the way, the passage includes what is commonly known as the Beattitudes

As the Rev. Talmadge said, "It can't hurt. Might help."

(c) Ellen Gillette, 2016

Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB),
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,
1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission.