February 25

Use Your Words

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

Remember Francis of Assisi (c. 1181 to 1226)? If anything comes to mind, it’s probably his love of animals and his embrace of poverty. There is a quote of his that has been popular in recent days: “Preach the gospel; if necessary, use words.” The quote is powerful in instructing us that everything we do should be an expression of the gospel. Unfortunately, Francis never said it, and it was the opposite of what he actually did.

Without digging too deeply into it, the quote only began to be attributed to Francis 200 years after his death. And the most recent biographers don’t find a record of it anywhere. What they do find is that Francis worked to express God’s love and call to grace in everything he did, but that included a lot of preaching. Apparently he used words a lot, and was said to have died preaching on Psalm 141.

The gospel is good news. News isn’t demonstrated; it’s shared. To use words “if necessary” is like telling television news reporters to use words on their newscasts if they need to. Or to take this point to its logical extreme, it’s telling people to feed the poor, and if necessary, use food.

We need to use our words when living our Christian lives and sharing the gospel. Francis’ alleged quote encourages us to make sure that our walk matches our talk. But is our talk matching our walk? If not, people will look, and while they may see our good works, they may see nothing more than that, or worse, they may see us instead of Jesus.

Jesus, our Great Example, preached all the time. He never assumed that someone would see a good work or a miracle and automatically “get” the gospel. Next time you read one of the four gospels, look for how often Jesus took the opportunity to talk about some aspect of salvation or the kingdom of God.

We shouldn’t make people guess about the power and love behind our lives. Let’s preach the gospel at all times, and use our words often.

Prayer: Lord, I want my walk and my talk to match. Help me to express your truths with my words, and to not let any good works substitute for sharing the good news.

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