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“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi
This has been a statement that I have heard for at least twenty three years. It is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Though St. Francis never really stated this, it does have a powerful message.
But, even when I first heard it, it sort of bothered me. I mean, it came to be a sort of a cop-out. I will explain later how I came to that opinion.
Upon first hearing ‘when necessary, use words’ I felt like I was sort of let off the hook. I could go on being a fairly good person or a so-so Christian and not ever have to utter a word about my faith.
I would never have to step out of my comfort zone, push myself, or be embarrassed. God would never ask me to do something uncomfortable, would he?
All I would have to do is look like a Christian, act like one by doing most of what they do, use a ‘Jesus coffee mug’ and maybe stick a ‘Christian’ sticker on the back of my car.
This sounded like I could easily be a ‘professional’ & believable Christian for sure. No need to make myself uncomfortable, or be blatantly transparent. The truth is that most of us are really good at ‘making believe’ so that others think of us a certain way.
“I have a ‘Jesus’ t-shirt – I am such a good example”
Honestly, I’ve always felt there was more to reality than just the statement of “only use words when necessary”.
Now, I am no Saint. Trying yes, but far from what one truly is. But, there was something that stuck out in my mind and kept me thinking there was a deeper more correct way to be a follower of Christ – to be a better and more perfect Christian.
So, back to the Scriptures, back to the Bible I went. Most of us have heard the story of Jesus. How he was born, how he died and how he rose from the dead.
But, how many of us take time to really look and know how he lived. When you start to read the Gospels and look at His daily life, you can get a sense of just how he conducted himself and what he expects us to be, how he wants us to live.
Looking at Mark 6:7-13
He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts.9 They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there.11Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”12So they went off and preached repentance.13 They drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Now, I don’t know about you, but this is pretty clear to me that the disciples didn’t just live day to day life looking like they were disciples. There was definitely a lot more taking place besides just ‘being’.
They had to interact with believers and non-believers. They spoke about Jesus – spreading the Good News. They prayed for others, led them out of their unrighteous way of living & showed them the way to new life. People were converted, healed and demons were driven out.
When you consider all of this, it is hard to imagine the miracles and life-changing events happening because of a cross around someone’s neck or of a bumper sticker on the back of their donkey (you get the meaning).
There was definitely action. There was seeking out of the ones who had never heard the message of Jesus. There were words spoken and there was touching and embracing those people that needed to hear the Gospel. I’m sure there were tears, joy, listening, and love demonstrated.
Even after Jesus rose from the tomb, he continued to teach and instruct the Apostles. He told them that why would be going out to the ends of the earth-meaning everywhere- and proclaiming the Gospel.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
Notice this verse says, witnesses. How can one be a witness without speaking and telling his or her story? They simply can’t.
It seems to me that Our Lord expected action and not just a life of ‘appearing’ to be a Christian.
The very meaning of the word Christian is to magnify the very image of Christ, live as he did, and show Him to the world around us.
Definitely, we do this through the way we live our everyday lives. How we treat people and how we act, even in secret. We become a Christian as we live the Gospel out.
But, to do this fully, we need to open our mouths, step out of our comfortable place, share and speak of Him.
There is just no easy way around it. I know that being a Christian is not for the faint of heart.
When Necessary, Use Words
So, what deems it ‘necessary’ to use words? Well, if you are Christian and you want to follow what Jesus tells us to do, and you want those you love and those around you to know Him, then words are definitely necessary.
This doesn’t mean you have to be ‘preachy’ it just means you have to share your story, your faith and the reason for it. You do this through your life and your words. What you speak and how you speak it.
Living in the hope that we will never have to speak or share our story is not realistic. We are called to live like Him & share His Truth and plant seeds of faith. To evangelize.
You cannot reap a harvest without sowing a seed, and you cannot sow or reap without effort. We have a job to do. Being and participating is part of it.
We have been given an actionable task of sharing the Gospel. Jesus first commisioned the Apostles and then us all. And in our daily sharing & evangelization, it is very necessary to use words.
A Catholic mom of 10 & a Deacon’s wife.
I Help Inspire Christian Women to Grow in Their Faith & Share with Others, Improve their Health, and Create Whole-Life-Wellness From the Inside Out.