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Friday, May 05, 2017

Preach the Gospel

We all know the quote.
Preach the Gospel at all times.
When necessary, use words.
Do you know who said it? If you answer in the affirmative, you're likely wrong. No one has been able to provide evidence of the original quote. Often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, turns out there is no record that he ever said it. He encouraged believers to live their faith, but never suggested a preference for "preaching without words" over preaching with them. Then, of course, you have another problem. Since "preach" is defined as "deliver a sermon or religious address to an assembled group of people," doing so without words is impossible.

What do we mean by it when we say it? Well, we're trying to convey what Francis conveyed, that we ought to live our faith. And, brothers and sisters, let us agree with James on this topic. "Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17) He goes on to say, " Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18) and "Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?" (James 2:20) Yes -- yes, indeed -- we need to live out what we say we believe. We ought to be living witnesses of Christ's work in us. If we were to be arrested as Christians, there should be more than sufficient evidence to convict us.

So, what about this "When necessary, use words"? Surely you can see that doesn't work at all. Try it in any other application. "Go for a drive. When necessary, take your car." "Cook a good meal. When necessary, use food." "Fly from America to Europe. When necessary, use an airplane." When the first command defines itself, a "when necessary do what it says" is pointless.

We need to revise the quote, then. "Use words to preach the Gospel wherever you go. If others should find it necessary, be sure your life backs up your words." Maybe that's a better version?


David said...

Sure it's better, but not at witty. That quote has always struck me as a modern sentiment, not an ancient saying. We don't want to talk about the Gospel, so come up with a witty saying to say you're sharing the good news without being uncomfortable.

Stan said...

Not as witty, not as clever, and a lot more pointed. Likely won't catch on.