On (Not) Using Words
by Paul Hughes
Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.
Quick now — who said that?
Me. Just now. Weren’t you paying attention?
The saying is sometimes attributed to Francis of Assisi, most likely erroneously, as many are gleefully wont to revel in and reveal, should someone dare voice the view.
To which the only reasonable response is, So what?
So what if he didn’t say it? The point isn’t who said it.
The point is what it means. And it’s pedantic — not to mention a damnable waste of the time and talent given us — to care, let alone argue, if he personally spoke the actual signifiers or not.
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So what does it mean, given that — yes, obviously — here I am using words.
Well what it does not mean — what it does not even say — is that one should never use words to preach the gospel. In fact, it quite clearly gives the very pre-condition for doing so: if necessary.
Well, it’s always necessary, comes the riposte.
Fine then, use them all the time if you like.
Of course, most of the time people won’t listen. But that’s OK. They’ll still be watching.
Here’s a little test. How many people, besides Christians, pay attention to what Christians say? Yep. And how many people pay attention to what we do, especially if they compare it to what we just said? Yep again.
For what it’s worth, the sentiment expressed is that both words and actions are vital to a robust proclamation. Aight? Now can we live out the Gospel?
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