"Preach the gospel always, and when necessary, use words."
This quote has been often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, though there are some scholars who believe he never said these words. The origin of this quote is not the focus of this blog post, so I'm not going to get too hung up on all that.
What I think I'd like to address is the way so many people blow this quote out of proportion. Sometimes, I think we have a tendency to want to find a point to pick at and argue about, rather than trying to understand the heart behind something.
The way I see it, there is a lot of truth to the idea that our lives should preach the gospel. Jesus talked a lot about who we are meant to be and what we are meant to do, and very little about what we are supposed to say. It seems to me that the words we speak should reflect what we do, or else they are just hollow and meaningless.
I have heard many decry this quote, believing that it is saying we should never use words. And of course, how can the gospel be clearly understood without words? This is a valid concern. Still, to these I would ask, how can the gospel be clearly understood without the works that illustrate a gospel saturated life? We are called to be salt and light, to bring out the God-colors and flavors in this world. People are meant to *see* the gospel by watching us love one another.
Otherwise, our words have no weight.
I am reminded of a profound statement made by Brennan Manning:
"The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."
In contrast, to live the gospel with our lives is compelling.
And it is our lives that make places in the hearts of others for our words.
Our words find homes in the hearts of those we have loved well, in those who have *seen* love, *seen* the gospel, *seen* Jesus.