One of my loyal readers wrote an interesting post:
Today, I had coffee with a friend of mine who said, “I don’t believe that it is my responsibility to share the gospel.” He just wanted to live his life in such a way that people would be attracted to that example and hopefully come to Christ.
I reminded him that for a Christian, the Bible teaches that sharing the gospel is not optional. Jesus commanded us to tell others about his death, burial and resurrection.
Who is to say that your life well lived will look any different than that example of a good atheist, Buddhist, Muslim or any other religion?
St. Francis of Assisi quote:
“Preach the gospel at all times and
when necessary use words.”
St. Francis of Assisi quote
(attributed to him, I’ve not seen documentation if it really was him).
But I’ve often wondered if Francis of Assisi got it right, or if we have so misused his words to justify our lack of communicating the gospel with words.
St. Francis of Assisi may be wrong
In the comments at the original post, I wrote:
One of the things I like to say is that St. Francis got it wrong.
In our culture today, meaning is determined by the meaning maker. In other words, meaning is implied in how I interpret your actions, unless you interpret your actions for me.
If none is given (just being silent), what separates one’s actions from that of a moral kind and loving atheist?
I think of art in a museum.
I look at it but apparently I’m supposed to figure out what it means.
I wish someone would tell me what those splotchs of seemingly random color smears are supposed to mean.
I wrote about this idea at “Is your outreach the same as evangelism?”
Does your behavior stand out?
If your actions are no different than another morally upright and well-behaved person, what really makes you stand out?
Of course, we are the salt the the earth, and to let our light shine.
God will make our righteousness shine like the dawn, etc.
There is something to be said about our righteousness that is attractive.
That righteousness is revealed when we are under pressure — where people face the temptation to give in and fail — our righteousness shines like the dawn. Our kindness is evident when the world has treated someone wrong and its unexpected.
But in our day to day life — is our moral behavior any different from the person in the next cubicle? Does that alone make us stand out?
This is where I think St. Francis’ quote is misused. Perhaps in his day, his extreme actions spoke louder than the culture which raised the curiosity factor into Saint Francis of Assisi’s life.
Clear Communication is Necessary
One of the clearest points I got out of Becoming a Contagious Christian, was the importance of clear communication.
Without an explanation of the resurrection of Christ and it’s application to you, what are people to believe? That one can simply be good?
Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master approach is all based on Clear Communication.
It is our obedience to share our faith in Christ.
It is our duty and calling to speak of our relationship with Jesus. The gospel is important and we want people to believe in the gospel as revealed in Scripture. We don’t need to let people guess for themselves.
Servant evangelism offers a card with their actions that explain that they are doing their service as an active demonstration of the love of Jesus Christ. The cards given usually don’t explain the gospel, but give an invitation to the church, and provide a contextual moment for a gospel conversation to occur if the Holy spirit is opening the door.
When has a non-Christian asked you why your behavior is different?
How did you answer that question?
What can you do to make sure your life is interpreted in light of the gospel?
I’ve been studying the life of this man recently. In no way did St. Francis get it wrong, and in no way was he condoning apathy. His life is a living statement of that fact. He not only preached the Gospel with words, but he portrayed incarnational love. Live the message you declare. That is the meaning behind those words and are backed up by other quotes. Also if you study his life, his passion and love for Christ alone was contagious. 😉
“While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.”
“The preacher must first draw from His secret prayers what he will later pour out in his holy sermons; he must grow hot within before he speaks words that are cold in themselves.”
“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light;and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.”
Thanks for chiming in.
Perhaps my point is better stated in that many use St. Francis to justify their lack of saying anything.
His life may very well have backed up his claims in the bigger picture. But in our soundbite culture, this statement has been perhaps lifted out of his context and used to justify our own lack of speaking.
Thanks for sharing.
I get a lot of reaction to this post on twitter.
What it boils down to is a phrase I read in “The Externally Driven Church”
Good deeds leads to good will which leads to good news.
Good deeds do not explain the gospel. They simply pave the way for hearing the good news.