My dad had a poster on the wall of his 11th grade apologetics Bible classroom. It was a quote from a prominent figure in Christian history, St. Francis of Assisi, and it read,
“Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
I happened to think that was pretty darn clever of this saint guy, I committed it to my junior high memory and cited it as my “favorite quote” whenever asked for the next few years. As I understand the quote, Christians should act like a Christian and allow their pure, Christlike lifestyle to be the testimony that draws nonbelievers to Christ.
I have always been told by the Christians in my life who seemed to want to encourage me that the direct result of being a good person will be my friends asking me what’s “different” about me, thus swinging the door of opportunity open wide to share the Gospel, pray with them on the spot, and ship them off to Africa to do missions work. And all you had to do, especially in a place like San Diego, was hold open the door for a handicapped person or carry a little old lady’s groceries across the street instead of dealing drugs at the local middle school, and you were deemed a saint. Those magical interactions with nonbelievers never actually happened to me, but you’d think it’s the easiest thing in the world by the way other Christians talked.
But then I moved to Utah.
Suddenly, I am surrounded by charity volunteers, faithful church potluck attendees, and young adults who all go on two-year missions trips. Being a Christlike human being tends to get lost in the sea of good religious behavior around here, and “preaching the Gospel” with your actions will simply make people admire your apparent devout LDS convictions. Because Mormons truly believe that they belong to just another “Christian denomination,” it consistenly takes me a case of totally humble Christ-speaking-through-me conversation to even establish the fact that I hail from a different religion and worship a different God. How am I supposed to tell them “Jesus loves you” when they already have a version of Jesus in their religion whom they believe loves them too?
Our time is too short to spend loving people and being a good person if people never understand Who makes us that way. I won’t deny St. Francis – As irrelevant as it is to the truth of the Gospel, people tend to disregard everything someone has to say if their actions don’t speak as loud as their words. But if your actions are going to say something, let your words say it too! You can treat AIDS in Africa, you can hand out water to homeless people, and you can counsel pregnant teenagers to your heart’s content, and it will undoubtedly glorify the Lord because He has said that whatever we do for the least of these, we do as unto him. But listen: People need healing for their spiritual sickness as much as they need physical help! It drives me crazy when Christian teams do something wonderful like building homes in China, then leave without uttering the name of Jesus Christ once. We are called to heal the spiritual sickness and fill the spiritual hunger within people! What good does it do to make someone’s life more comfortable on this earth when, once they die, they will suffer eternally? This is of too grave importance to simply put on the back burner. Your life – words, thoughts, and actions – should revolve around Christ and Him crucified to the point where it is apparent to others.
Preach the Gospel at all times with your words and your actions.