“Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” Most Christians are familiar with this quote. Some of us have used this quote. Sadly, too many of us are confused by the quote. The quote is widely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Did he say it? Did he live by it? Should we? Please read more.
This quote seems to place more emphasis on living a God-centered life rather than preaching the Gospel with words. For some Christians, it provides a defense and or an excuse not to preach with words. This quote seemingly makes a distinction between preaching with words or living the Gospel by example. We might be inclined to see this as a choice between one or the other, when in fact we are called to do both. We need to live a righteous life, and we need to preach the good news of Jesus Christ?
You may be surprised to discover that there is no evidence at all that St. Francis ever said or wrote that quote. Scholars widely believe it was falsely attributed to him. The quote is also inconsistent as to the way St. Francis lived his life. He never shied away from preaching. He was known to preach strong words to the wealthy class even when they didn’t want to hear his words.
So, historically speaking, St. Francis lived a good life and he continually preached about Jesus. It has even been said of him that while traveling from one place to another he would preach to the wild animals and even preach to the birds. He simply could not contain his enthusiasm for sharing the good news of Jesus. Do we have that same enthusiasm?
It is not unusual for Christians to live with some fear of discussing their faith in public. Some of us were taught at a young age to keep our faith to ourselves. Relativism has taken root in today’s society. Too many people now believe that all religions are equal. Even some Christians believe that people should be given the opportunity to step up to the smorgasbord to choose whichever one of the world’s great religions best suites them. Today, many Christians feel no obligation to guide others to Jesus.
Some Christians don’t feel equipped to preach. Others don’t feel worthy to preach. Many Christians use the quote which was falsely attributed to St. Francis to justify their lack of preaching. We need to read the entire quote. The quote concludes with, “when necessary, use words.” There has never been a time in the last 2000 years when it wasn’t necessary to tell others about Jesus. This is especially true today!
Saint Paul was one of the greatest Christian evangelists. Other than Jesus Christ Himself, perhaps no other preacher made a bigger impact on the world. He did so through both his words and actions. His preaching laid the groundwork for all of the preachers who followed him. Paul preached in the face of great opposition, even to the point that his preaching cost him his life. He followed in the footsteps of the Master. Will we?
We cannot allow fear of rejection or alienation stand in our way. We should expect and welcome these trials. Jesus told us what would happen. In Matthew 24:9 He said, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” We will likely not be killed for preaching the Gospel, but our modern culture will likely try its best to silence our voice. To follow after Jesus, we must preach the Gospel fearlessly.
When God spoke to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:4-7 he said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born, I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” Likewise, before God formed us in the womb, He had already appointed us to share the message of His Son to the ends of the earth.
Like Jesus, St. Paul and St. Francis never shied away from powerful preaching. Neither should we! In Luke 5:10-11 Jesus states, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men. When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.”
Are we ready to forsake everything to answer God’s call to preach the good news of His Son? What is holding us back from becoming “catchers of men”? What is keeping us from preaching the salvation story? In Luke 4:43 Jesus states, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” My dear friends Jesus has commissioned us to do the same. It is for this very reason that we were born.
I will conclude with this quote from 1 Corinthians 9:16. Paul said, “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, an obligation has also been placed on each one of us. As baptized Christians, each of us have been anointed priest, prophet, and king. Woe to us if we shrink from our responsibility. Let’s preach the good news to everyone we meet, maybe even to the birds!
Heavenly Father, grant me the courage to preach the love and saving power of your Son to the people I encounter each day. Send your Holy Spirit to guide me to those most in need of this message. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!
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