Preaching through words or through our lifestyle?
Almost two years ago I blogged about: Representing Christ in the world. This was mostly a critique on the supposed saying of Franciscus of Assisi who would have said: “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” In that post I raised some concerns I have with this approach, saying that the Bible never speaks of a tension existing between preaching and living the gospel.
Recently Mark Galli also wrote about this in Christianity Today in an article, Speak the Gospel. He writes in the article: “Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it. The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age.”
In other words, for years people have not only been quoting these words, but actually have built a theology around what he would have said and done, only to find that the words did not originate from him. Mark Galli, who also wrote a biography on Franciscus, writes: “First, no biography written within the first 200 years of his death contains the saying. It’s not likely that a pithy quote like this would have been missed by his earliest disciples. Second, in his day, Francis was known as much for his preaching as for his lifestyle.”
I share the concern that people have with Christians who preach the gospel and then live a life that contradicts what they are saying. This cannot be justified in any way. But the Bible is full of preaching. The message of salvation cannot really be shared in any other manner than through our words.
I guess the reason why this saying has become so popular, is because this is a great way for people to justify it if they do not want to follow Jesus Christ. “I don’t believe in Jesus, because there’s this guy in our town who says he’s a Christian, but I know that he cheats on his wife.” Good excuse. But not a valid excuse. Through this way of reasoning, I’m no longer responsible for what goes on in my relationship with God. It is someone else’s responsibility. And this is not Biblical.
I never agreed with Franciscus. I was relieved to find that he had not actually spoken those words.
We need to be concerned with the way in which we live our lives. Our testimony as Christian can be seriously harmed by living contrary to what we are preaching. We can even be responsible that someone may reject Jesus because of the way in which we live. But I cannot, I may not, stop speaking about God, hoping that people will see in my life that I love God. Our words and our lifestyles complement each other. Both are important.
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