Preach the gospel and all times and it is always necessary to use words

St. Francis of Assisi  once said, "preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words." I don't know the original intent of this quote, but I do know how it is understood today. It is the greatest excuse for not preaching the gospel in North America.

These words have come to mean, "if you are scared to preach the gospel, don't do it." We are ashamed of the gospel and telling other people about it because they might think we are weird. Many people tell of stories of how people just knew they where different by how they acted. That is all well and good but what good is it if they can see a difference, but don't know what is the difference? And is the difference they see in us any different then what they would see in any other religious person?

As Christians, if we compare our lives to let's say Mormons there is very little difference, they might even be a bit better than us when it comes to living out our beliefs. Since the difference is marginal at best, then why do we think that our actions will somehow lead others to Jesus Christ? And besides, the gospel that we preach is not a message of works, it is message of faith in Jesus Christ. How can we expect only our works to show a message of faith*?

Let's take a practical example. You are in a foreign city on the way to the airport and you are lost and you are late. It is imperative that you make your flight because your wedding is the next day. You stop three people to ask them directions. The first person you stop is a mime. He makes a lot of hand gestures but it is impossible to decipher exactly what he is saying. The second person you stop gives you verbal directions, but they are not from the area and do not know about the road closures on the route they gave you. The third person you stop is also going to the airport, and they offer to show you the way. In fact, they also have a wedding the next day. Needless to say, when you are in a critical situation, it is the third person that you would want to stop and ask directions, the other two are basically useless. Also, if somebody is stopping to ask you directions, and it is critical to you that they get there, you would not take any chances and show them the way yourself.

The mime is like the person who never opens his mouth to share the gospel. It is hard differentiate this person's religion from other religious people or just generally moral people. In certain situations when people say they just knew you were different, it could be a backhanded comment. They could actually mean that they think you are weird.

The second person is like the person who preaches the gospel but never lives it. Their advice is not very useful because it has never been tried and so they don't know about the pitfalls that come later.

The third person is like a disciple of Jesus Christ. Not only do they explain how to get there at each turn in the road, they come along to the destination. It is imperative to them that you reach your destination because they have a wedding as well.

It is always necessary to use words while preaching the gospel. Jesus did not sit up in Heaven giving us verbal instruction on how to have a relationship with the Father. As the Gospels attest, He also was not silent when He showed us the way to the Father. No, He came to down to this earth, not only telling us the way, but also showing us the way.

Every day people miss their flights and maybe some of them because they did not get the right directions to the airport. Missing your wedding is bad, but it is not the end of the World. Missing the marriage supper of the Lamb is terrible, and is the end of the World.

How are they to hear without someone preaching?

*The Apostle James did say that he would demonstrate his faith with his works, but he was addressing a different situation. He was addressing the situation of people using words but never demonstrating what they said. The situation I am trying to address is the situation were people never use words and their actions are marginal.


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