I have heard the phrase many times:
“Preach the gospel at all times.
When necessary use words.”
-St. Francis of Assisi
It is from a long time ago. St. Francis of Assisi is attributed with saying it. It’s great for our day in age when we can only tweet so many characters. It would fit on a T-shirt maybe even a bumper sticker if you are really talented.
I think I understand what people are trying to say when they use this phrase. I think they are wanting to point out the goodness they have in their lives because of Jesus but I think we need to use words. We may not use words right away. However actions alone do not lead people to Christ. I would say that words are always necessary.
This phrase treads on dangerous waters, in the context I have heard it in. It makes it an easy jump to say that what makes us a Christian are our actions or our deeds instead of Christ and his actions and deeds.
It’s not the good things we do in life that point others to Christ. It is his faithfulness to us in spite of the fact that we can be real butt-heads. It is not the things that I do that make me a Christian. Thank goodness!
It was the action of another that makes me a Christian. It was the action of Christ that gives me all the goodness.
If I do not use words it would depend on the day for what an outsider would see. A person might see someone who is busy serving her kids and her family, making supper, hosting a playgroup, hoping to make a bright spot in the community she adores. On another day a person might see a giant pain in the a#@. They may see someone who is crabby because she has to feed these people again, does not want to even go outside and instead stays in and drinks wine in her home with the blinds shut.
If I don’t use words, if I don’t tell people about his faithfulness all they will see is a person. One day they might see a big a#@hole and another day they might see a lovely person serving others. It is really a crap shoot.
On either of those days I can tell of his faithfulness. On the days I am being a giant a-hole I can tell of his faithfulness in spite of my unfaithfulness. Because of his steadfast love I can admit to being a giant a-hole. This is a huge piece of the puzzle when you need to live and love the people around you. I can tell how big His love is for me in spite of how bad my attitude has been.
On the days I am appearing to be a descent human being I can tell of his faithfulness to produce that good fruit in me. I can tell people that I am loved by a God who IS love. He loves us not because of who we are or what we do but we are loved in spite of who we are and what we do. I can point others to Him and say that in spite of the fact that I do not have it all together He is using me to serve my neighbors. I can say thanks for noticing and give the glory to Jesus.