Is Saint Francis a Sissy?
Is Saint Francis a sissy?
"...Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" -1 Corinthians 9:16b
Okay, no, St. Francis is not a sissy by any means; I just couldn't resist the pun. There is a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi that you are probably acquainted with. It says, "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary." This is terribly misleading and, if taken lightly, very dangerous to Christian evangelism. I understand what this quote is meant to be saying. What is meant is this: "Since our actions often speak louder than our words, let your actions show that you are a Christian, and let them touch people in a way that shows them Christ." Amen. However, the tendency can be to stop there, and that is detrimental to our evangelism.
Many times, this quote can be used as a cop-out from true evangelism. The gospel cannot be preached only through our actions. When we take this quote at face value, it seems that there are times when our words are not necessary to share the gospel. That's preposterous. Kind actions are not a means of preaching the gospel. Kind actions are not limited to Christianity. They aren't even limited to religious people. An atheist could just as easily hold a door open for someone or volunteer at a homeless shelter. Kind actions don't even necessarily mean that there are good motives behind the action. One could hold a door open for someone or volunteer at a homeless shelter simply because he/she wants to look like a good citizen, or because he/she wants to earn a favor for someone. (Know that I am just using these two examples for ease of explanation. This is by no means an exhaustive list of kind actions.)
The most despicable part of this is that when we "preach the gospel" exclusively through kind acts, we leave out most of the gospel. Central to the gospel is our great need of salvation and Christ's provision of that salvation. Holding a door open for someone is not going to show them how in need of Christ they are.
My point is this: our kind actions are important, for sure. James 2:17 says, "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." However, we must use those actions as opportunities to verbally share the gospel with people. Your good acts may be a springboard to talk to someone about Christ. The relationships that you develop as your show that you are a trustworthy person may bring about opportunities to talk about Christ. But those good acts and those trustworthy relationships are not, themselves, the gospel. To preach the gospel is to "preach Christ crucified." (1 Corinthians 1:23a)
Brothers and sisters, do not try to find excuses to not talk about the gospel. It is the very center of our faith, and the reason that you have salvation. Do not cheat yourselves and others out of the fullness of God's gift to man by leaving out the beautiful good news of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection. Do you hesitate? Ask God to help. He certainly will! If you wish to become more familiar with the gospel, you might want to start by checking out this iDevo: (http://www.youthforamerica.org/idevo/2014/12/8/do-you-know-the-gospel). This is a good summary of what we proclaim when we preach the gospel. If you want to learn more, ask a pastor or contact us here at YFA. It will be worth your time!
Be blessed, be courageous, and act and speak in a way that preaches Christ.