My daily devotions has taken me recently through the book of Daniel. From the first chapter to the last, I am reminded how very little the book – and every other book of the Bible, for that matter – holds to a quote that is mistakenly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:
The fact is that St. Francis never actually said these words, but instead lived within the tension between declaration and representation of the Gospel. He was himself a preacher, known for both compassion and severity. An early biographer wrote, “He denounced evil wherever he found it, and made no effort to palliate it; from him a life of sin was met with outspoken rebuke, not support.” The Gospel Coalition says of the often used misquote, “While there’s a nice and good sentiment in the statement…the notion as it is typically presented is neither practical, nor faithful to the Gospel of Christ. It does not align with St. Francis’ own practice.”
Still, those who are uncomfortable with overt or proactive proclamation of the Gospel are all too happy to use this idea to affirm their hesitant position. But from Noah to Moses to Esther to David to Nehemiah to Daniel to Malachi to Jesus to Paul to Peter to Timothy to John – and many in between – we see that this philosophy is entirely umbilbical.
The last verses of the last chapter in Matthew tell us, “Then Jesus came to them and said,…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
The translation of this passage implies aggressive teaching and instruction, not timid lip-zipping. Likewise, when Jude instructs believers to “earnestly contend for the faith,” he refers to contention by argument, reasoning, and holding fast to the principles of religion; to maintaining truth by living a steady life and speaking with a steady voice. The Gospel is a message, it is news, and how can anyone believe in One of whom they have not heard and how can they hear unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14)
It is important to make a distinction between speaking truth and antagonistic rudeness. All words ought to be spoken in love and in the spirit of the Gospel. John MacArthur says that “Love of conflict is no less sinful than craven cowardice.” Passion and zeal for truth must always be tempered with grace and gentleness.
But one good look through the life and words of Jesus and the other biblical characters mentioned above will show that they didn’t seem to suffer from the angst which causes many people today to set aside linguistic diligence to the truth. The manner in which these people of God dealt with their knowledge of the holy is a serious rebuke to many of this generation who maintain that words ought to be a last resort when proclaiming the Gospel.
Learning once again from John MacArthur, “We need to pay more careful attention to how Jesus dealt with false teachers, what He thought of religious error, how He defended the truth, whom He commended and whom He condemned – and how little He actually fit the gentle stereotype that is so often imposed on Him today.”
Certainly we must not give verbal allegiance to our faith, then act and live in a way that betrays our words. But St. Francis, along with biblical examples of hearers, doers, and proclaimers of the Word, stand as a challenge to Christians today to boldly live and speak in a way that proclaims the worthiness of the Christ we follow.
While quite the departure from the usual Thanksgiving Thursday post, this is what was on my heart. As one writer has said, “…hesitancy to share the Gospel verbally simply will not do if you even remotely consider yourself to be a biblical Christian.” My friends, my prayer is that you not only live the life of thanksgiving and gratitude for the Good News of Jesus Christ, but that you proclaim it loud!
My Thanksgiving List 1/17/13
705. Reading the Bible to Peanut every morning during her breakfast
709. Standing with Hobby Lobby….and getting great deals while I’m at it!
714. The discipline of the Holy Spirit
740. Gingerbread Kahlua
746. That because of His great and startling mercy, we are not consumed
719. A balmy winter walk with Peanut
720. A table FULL of groceries
731. Peanut’s new red toy box
723. Date night with my hot husband