The new head of the Roman Catholic Church has taken the name, “Francis,” after Francis of Assisi, a truly remarkable man. In nearly every way the Catholic Church is the antithesis of the ways of the original Francis. The pomp and ceremony witnessed in the weeks surrounding the selection of a new pope is not a reflection of the simplicity and meekness of Christ and those who followed Him. The apostles made certain that they were not honored as anything more than men with a mission.
As with so many great men and women, a lot of embellishment has been plastered on the stories of the man from Assisi. I am thinking of one particular saying attributed to him, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” He said some wise and wonderful things, but no bona fide record of him having actually uttered this particular phrase exists. I like to believe he really did. It fits what I’ve learned about the man.
Jesus said it first in so many ways. In His sermon on the mount, he made sure his listeners knew that what we do is as important as what we say. Truly, truly God is glorified when the gospel is authenticated by salty, light-filled lives replete with compassion, service, love and good deeds (Matthew 5). James takes pains to remind us that faith which produces no works is a dead faith (James 2). There is no room in this short blog to list all the references in the writings of the New Testament regarding the absolute necessity of actions that validate our faith. Trust me, there’s a bunch!
Those who claim to follow Christ seem to have forgotten that the world is watching. Every disciple needs to be challenged to find some place quiet and do a little self-examination of the last 24 hours of their life. I mean every aspect. If your faith is validated by your good deeds, have there been any? If your heart is known by your speech, what does your heart look like to your family, school mates, co-workers and friends? If you are known as a follower of Christ, have you humbly served? Have you treated those with whom you have come in contact with love and respect, no matter their station in life? How have you lived when you think no one’s watching?
The world can know Christ only by seeing and hearing His followers.