“Preach the gospel—and if you have to, use words.”
In some quarters, this has become a popular expression which is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, the much-celebrated monk who was known for humbly serving others and who died in the early 1200’s.
The expression is supposed to remind all Christians (not just ordained people) that sharing the good news about Jesus is first and foremost about your actions and example.
But there’s only one problem with it. No one can find where St. Francis actually said it. Plus, as far as I can tell, it goes against the example of St. Francis himself.
We live in a time when it can be hard to say ANYTHING about your faith. There can be such misunderstanding out there (and sometimes, hostility) that it’s easier to just keep your beliefs bottled up inside.
1st John 2:6 (NLT) says, “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” And Jesus didn’t just do things—he said things too.
In a world cloaked in confusion and uncertainty, it can be intimidating. But at the same time, in a world drowning in darkness, light shines bright.
So maybe we should change the words attributed to St. Francis to these: “Preach the gospel—like Jesus did, with words and actions.”
A life in the footsteps of Jesus isn’t just about humbly and lovingly doing things, it’s about humbly and lovingly saying things too.
By Matthew Ruttan