I once saw a poster that said: “Preach the gospel, use words if necessary”. The thought that it was trying to convey is that if we life in a Christlike manner before the world, and love them, this will draw them to Christ.
This is all well and good, but you know what? Words ARE necessary. Sometimes the truth is more valuable and life giving then a belly full of social justice. Part of being able to speak that truth in love to a person is being willing to be in messy relationship with them.
Why do I say this?
When I was a teen my family fell onto hard times. We became isolated. We stopped going to church. We moved around a lot. Teachers and social workers suspected there was difficulty, but we never felt comfortable asking for help. Sometimes churches would drop by with baskets of food or Christmas presents. We’d eat the food, and enjoy the Christmas presents, but those things were only temporary.
Sometimes, just rarely, someone would try to step in to our world, our messy situation, and speak truth. One such man was named Geoff. He was a senior citizen who was looking for a way to reach out to others. He showed up where we were living in one morning offering to drive people to church. We went with him.
This was the beginning of a friendship that lasted many years. Sometimes we took advantage of Geoff’s kindness, but he took it in stride and used every opportunity to speak truth, sometimes hard truth, into our situation. That truth and those words lasted long after he died.
There were others that God brought into my path. People who encouraged me. Sometimes a stranger. Sometimes a teacher who never knew the impact they had. A person who took the time to actually see me and to challenge me.
Yes, we should feed the hungry. Yes, we should care for the orphan and the widow, and build homes for those without them. These are all wonderful things. When the day is done though, we need to be willing to give people ourselves, and more importantly, the realest thing we know, the reason for the hope that is within us. We need to actually say the words, even if we feel silly saying them. We may not be called on to preach sermons to thousands or recite 4 spiritual laws by rote, but every believer is responsible top pass on what they have seen and heard.
I leave you with a few words spoken in season, times when God used others to say the exact right thing at the right time.
“You can’t leave God’s will for your life” – SM-my boss, even though the decision I was making was not one you thought wise and was inconvenient. SO many other things hang on those apt words. (see my HA story).
“Yeah, God is good, but do you know He really is Good, and Holy too.” a random classmate at EMU, at the grocery store checkout counter, during a time I was kind of skating through Christianity.
“Paying bills is a matter of Christian integrity. You are not too far into debt. I could write a check for this amount right now, but I think it is more important for you to learn how to manage your finances. This is how you pay it off.”- BH, who happens to be an evangelist, and said many good things, and gave much good advice, but teaching me to get out of debt after my first credit card was some amazingly practical discipleship