Using 'words and deeds' must be balanced when sharing faith with others

Recommended by Alicia Purdy

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, June 1 2012 4:14 p.m. MDT

Our take: St. Francis of Assisi is popularly credited with saying, "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary" - and for people sharing a faith message, the idea is that sharing by showing is more profound than simply proclaiming a gospel and sounding "preachy". However, as one author points out, the balance of using words and deeds equally is more effective and necessary than using words that can't be lived up to, and deeds without any explanation of the gospel message.

When it comes to the enduring question of word versus deed in the Christian's calling, the issue is always one of balance. How are Christians to think about the relative roles of words (proclaiming the gospel) and deeds (loving action) in what Christ has called his people to be and do? We need to set our scales to a balance that matches Scripture.

"Balance" may sound simple, but finding and maintaining our equilibrium on such a complex subject is never easy. It's like walking a tightrope. Only one direction will keep us upright and moving forward, and any number of missteps could lead us to fall off one side or the other. Misguided claims abound. Here's a prominent example.

How often do we hear these days, with passion and approval, the famous dictum attributed to Francis of Assisi: "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary"? In this saying, the word-versus-deed question rears its head, stressing in this instance how important it is for Christians to "preach the gospel" with their actions. Let the gospel be seen rather than spoken, it's implied. Words may serve a useful backup role, but our actions must take center stage if we are to make a difference in the world.

At first blush, this sounds right. Except that it isn't.

Read more about using 'words and deeds' on Christianity Today.

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