• AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Francis, History, Wisdom Wednesday


    Many people who have heard the name Francis of Assisi associates the man with the phrase, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”  I heard this phrase many times in my undergrad education and decided to adopt it for a period of time.  I thought it was brilliant and that it captured the essence of Jesus’ message.

    But you know what?  I soon found out a secret.  That line was more than likely never uttered by Francis.

    And then I came to the conclusion that that line is actually very dangerous.  Let me unpack that.

    If that above phrase is only used to mean “preach the gospel and back up your words with your actions,” then that is a very helpful phrase.  But if we mean that the good news of the Kingdom of God coming through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus will be preached through our actions alone and never communicated through words, then I think we venture into dangerous territory.

    Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about this good news, saying:

    that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

    Yes, giving a cup of water to a thirsty migrant is very important and powerful, but this summary Paul gave cannot be communicated through that act.  Helping people is very huge, but the good news of Jesus comes through a verbal (or written, in this instance) witness.

    Let me be clear, our words need to have actions that back it up.  If we say we ought to be loving because Christ loved us, then we ought to demonstrate love as well.  But if I say we need to live peacefully with my neighbor, but drive in a constant state of road rage, then there is an obvious disconnect (I can neither confirm nor deny that I drive in a state of perpetual road rage.  All I’m going to admit is that I listen to the classical radio station for a reason).

    If you don’t read anything else though, read this: You are not the gospel.  Your actions, as pure as they might be, are not the gospel.  The gospel comes to those through the Holy Spirit’s application of the words into the life of the individual.  The Spirit applies the message we proclaim, as the good works we do help verify the hope that lives within us.  As Pope Francis once said, “if we don’t proclaim Jesus, something is wrong. We would become a compassionate NGO & not a Church which is the bride of Christ.”

    Let’s do good, and talk about the Good One.


    Jeremy, I truly appreciate this post!!! In the age of the social justice movement, the pendulum has swung so far to the other side that sometimes believers don’t look any different than just good, secular, charitable organizations. Yes: we are not the gospel. We are only ambassadors of the gospel. Our motives and actions will always have some degree of selfishness no matter how sincere we are. The word of God, however, is pure and abides forever, doesn’t return void, has the power to discern thoughts, change hearts and lives. We should be ready at all times to give an answer for the hope that is in us, with all gentleness and respect, but with words!

    • Appreciate your passion! Indeed, we are ambassadors, and as ambassadors we are called to represent the Kingdom. We should be concerned (and be agents) of justice, compassion, peace, and love, but we also need to spread the good news that Christ was died, buried, rose again, and is now seated at the righthand of the Father (and he will come again one day to right the world!).

      As the pope once said, we need to preach Jesus and not just be a charity or NGO. Give a cold glass of water to the thirsty, and also share about the love of Christ

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