by Charles Newbold
How often have we heard the cliché, “Action speaks louder than words.” St. Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
Jesus hiked His twelve apostles to Caesarea Philippi one day and asked them, “Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?” “Some say John the Baptist.” “Some say Elijah.” Then another answered, “Some say, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He then asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus assured Peter that he did not figure this out on his own, but that God had revealed it to him. Matthew 16:13-20.
I was listening to Don Potter’s song based on this passage of scripture in which he cries out, “Who do you say that I am?” It came to me to ask it this way, “Who does your life say that I am?” This is different from what Jesus asked, but I think it is a legitimate question. Don’t you?
But what does this mean? How can our lives preach the gospel without using words? “I try to live a godly life.” “I try to live by the Ten Commandments.” “I go to church, give to missions, do charitable work when I can.” “I try to set a good example.” “I doubled my tip and left a salvation tract for the server at the cafe.” These appear to be pious things to do, but they do not satisfactorily answer the question. Any good person can do these things, whether Christian or otherwise.
Jesus instructed His followers in John 13:35 saying, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another.” This would go a long way toward a satisfactory answer to our question if only we knew the kind of love spoken of here. It was the kind of love that Jesus defined in John 15:13. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This is the kind of love He demonstrated by His own life and death on the cross.
If this is the answer, we are really in trouble. We don’t seem to know how to love that way.
This question has to be answered on an individual basis. “Who does my life say that Jesus Christ is?” May I suggest that the answer can only come by living our lives according to this motto: “All things by the Spirit.” That is, do all things according to the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life, presuming He is in your life.
As we ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit and learn to be led by the Spirit in all things, we will reveal the heart and will of the Father. We will be what God has made us to be. We will say what God wants us to say. We will do what God wants us to do. And yes, we will love one another as He commanded.
Then, through these acts of loving obedience, people will be able to witness the kind of God we have living in us—the kind of God living His kind of life out from within us. People can slough off our religious words and actions, but they will see who Jesus is through our Spirit-led actions—even those that require words.
This article by Charles Elliott Newbold, Jr. was originally published in Validity Magazine on May, 2013. www.validitymag.com.