“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15-16a)
You may have heard the often quoted saying from St. Francis of Assisi that goes, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” On the surface, this saying has an important message to it. We should live our lives in such a way that by our very behaviors and actions we are in essence preaching the gospel. That’s certainly a way of life we should all aspire towards. There is no denying that.
However, there are a couple of problems to this saying. The first problem is, St. Francis of Assisi never said these words! There is not a scholar or historian of Francis who can find any evidence to the contrary. In fact, the first recorded instance of this phrase came almost 200 years after St. Francis’ death.
But that’s the lesser of the two problems. The second, much bigger, problem with this saying is that it is not supported by the Bible. To be sure, all throughout Scripture there is emphasis placed on living out the Gospel. But always tied intricately with the living out of the Gospel is the speaking of, telling about, and preaching on the Gospel.
We are called to perform our faith: “Live such good lives among the Gentiles that, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits” (1 Peter 2:12). As well as, proclaim our faith: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9)
We often err on the side of performing our faith because it’s easier, less daunting, and less intimidating. And we often shy away from proclaiming our faith because we’re convinced we’re not equipped and we don’t want to come off as judgmental or pushy. Scripture reminds us, however, that in order to truly be “on mission” we are called to both perform and proclaim our faith. It’s not either/or it’s both/and. “Always be ready,” Peter prompts us, “to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are.”
This week we will be looking at how we can tie those two aspects together as we are on mission in our communities and neighborhoods, and specifically how we can “be ready” to tell our story. We’ll be thinking about our own personal stories of faith and how our own life story can be a means of sharing the Gospel. So in preparation for Sunday, be thinking about your life. Think about the significant events that shaped your life, the important decisions you have made in your faith, and the ways God has changed and is continuing to change you.
“But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15, NIV)