Taking seriously what Jesus actually said

Jesus teachingMany of us call ourselves Christians.  How different our Christianity would be if we all took the words of Jesus seriously. Jesus said some radical and amazing things, but they are often forgotten, sidelined, ignored or treated as being hopelessly idealistic.

I want to be a part of a new generation of Jesus followers. People who place importance on the words and life of Jesus and try to live accordingly no matter what the cost. At the age of 69, I am starting a new journey of discovery. I cannot do it on my own. Will you join me on this journey?

Red Letter ChristianityRed Letter Christianity

I Have a copy of the Bible on my iPad. Most of it is in black and white, but the words of Jesus are in red.

I am currently reading a book entitled “Red Letter Christianity: living the words of Jesus no matter the cost”. It is written as a dialog between Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo.   The book describes the growing movement, particularly among the young, of people turned off religion including traditional Christianity but who take the teachings of Jesus seriously and who seek to  follow him. (£8.49 on Kindle, £9.99 paperback on Amazon)

Defining Influences

I am on a journey. I am challenged as I re-read the words of Jesus and seek to know what it means for me and my family. As a young man, it was implied,  (though never actually said,) that the words of Jesus were too difficult to understand – but that thankfully Paul had come along and explained it all. In my early days, I listened to many sermons on the words of Paul, or on passages from the Old Testament but very little about what Jesus actually said.

It was left to my school R.I. teacher, who I thought was a theological liberal and probably not ‘saved'(!), to emphasise the words of Jesus. (See Defining influences in my life.) He placed importance on the words of Jesus in the Gospels, but considered the rest of the New Testament as mere interpretation. Those early seeds, planted in me at school, have taken many years to germinate.

Hard words

If we find the words of Jesus difficult to understand, it is probably because:

  • We need to understand the language, culture and the context in which those words were spoken.
  • We consider that Jesus’ words were idealistic and therefore we never try to live as though they were important.

Some of Jesus’ words are indeed difficult to understand. For instance, what did Jesus mean when he said?

‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26 NIV)

But some words are quite clear, though we may have to search out ways we can carry them out in our lives. For example:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24 NIV)

Relevant today

Jesus spoke about things which are still intensively relevant to us today, including:

  • Money and possessions
  • Our attitude towards enemies
  • Non-violence
  • Divorce
  • Lust
  • Not despising others
  • Worry
  • Giving to the poor
  • Lending
  • Fasting
  • Praying
  • Forgiving
  • Not being judgemental
  • False prophets
  • Abundant life
  • Heaven and Hell
  • Faith
  • Hypocrisy
  • Truth
  • Healing
  • Persecution
  • And many more …

Jesus’ life reflects his words

Jesus wasn’t laying out a systematic new theology, speaking theoretically. His words came out of his life, and his relationship with his Father (God).

  • His attitude to money was demonstrated by the way he and his disciples lived in community.
  • When he was ill-treated at his trial, he could have retaliated verbally, or with violence. But he showed in practice what he taught about ‘turning the other cheek’.
  • He did not condemn the woman brought to him accused of adultery, meaning he could say with authority, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”.

Me and my Blog

I want to write about some of Jesus’ teaching, but I am very aware that things in my life need adjusting before I can write with any authority. So as I write, I do not want my words to get ahead of my actions. I must make it clear that I am still learning what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus. So it is inevitable that I challenge myself as I seek to challenge you.

  • The first step is to come to the conclusion that Jesus’ words really are important.
  • The next step for you and me is to decide that we will seek to live out the words of Jesus.

We can’t suddenly change all our thinking, and all our ways of living, in one go. Will you join with me on a journey of discovery, a journey of adjustment and a journey which means we are truly followers of Jesus Christ, no matter what the cost.

Author: George Dowdell

I was the founder of Karuna Action (formerly Kingscare) and was the director for 24 years. I have now handed control over to younger people but continue as an advisor and trustee. My passion is to see extreme poverty eliminated and to see justice for the powerless.

3 thoughts on “Taking seriously what Jesus actually said”

  1. Yes, I look forward to where you will go with this. I have been, and still am, on a somewhat similar journey, in myself and recently within a small group of like-minded christians. Trouble is, I’m not sure how far “out there” I’m willing to go, and should go. Living in a rich western society inevitably leads to compromises with the literal meaning of some of Jesus’ teachings, and it is tricky to know what he would teach today and when reluctance to move is selfishness or practicality. If we pray, I believe the Spirit will guide us in the right direction, but it isn’t easy. Best wishes.


  2. George, I like this concept. I often write about people missing the overarching meanings in the bible, by focusing on the minutiae. Plus, by focusing on Jesus’ teachings, you can find counterparts in other religions, such as variations of the Golden Rule. I look forward to more of this. BTG


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: