Meet Nicole, my guest writer. My wife and I have known Nicole and her husband for a few years. Both of them love the Lord just as my wife and I do. Hopefully this is only the first of her writings.
Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words. -St Francis of Assisi
I recently heard someone not local to the Seattle area use this quote in reference to Christians in Seattle. I don’t know if the person repeating it was aware that these are the words of Saint Francis, not to be confused with the current Pope of the same name. And to clarify, I think the person who said this was still making a fairly valid point about Seattle area Christians in general, and I respect this person a lot. To paraphrase, he said that Christians in Seattle tend to be quiet about their faith, and keep it private. Yes, I try to be quiet about it most of the time, but I am also aware that Christians do live in Seattle, so I’m not quite a minority, religiously speaking.
I keep my faith quiet for several reasons, but first and foremost is because so many in the Seattle area who are not followers of Christ tend to have strong opinions about Christianity, whether they understand the Bible, the religion, or not. Most of the arguments I heard against the Church didn’t have anything to do with the faith I was brought up in, but had everything to do with other Christian sects or an historical viewpoint. Those don’t apply to me, for the most part, since I belong to a lesser-known branch of evangelicals, and well, I live in the 21st century and not the crusading Middle Ages. And then in the lime-light there are the Bible-thumping “evangelicals” who adhere to very strict ideas of how Christians ought to live and aren’t shy about declaring who will be “saved” and who is going to be damned to hell. With those ideas, why on earth would I actually publicize that I’m a Christian… with my words?
I love these words of Saint Francis of Assisi about witnessing: Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words. Another way to phrase it is, “Actions speak louder than words.” I believe that the reason my acquaintance criticizes Seattle area Christians is not because we don’t talk enough. It’s because we don’t act enough. We are called to be people of action. Not just Christians, but everyone! That’s not to say that we need to live more in the moment, or that we should act first and think later. No. But we can’t just stand around and talk about stuff, and then call things good.
I’m fine with people not talking about what they believe. I almost wish more would do that. It’s difficult going to downtown Seattle and watching so-called Christians demonstrate with signs that “God is Love” and then see right next to them, or written just below, “God hates Gays” and worse. Those are very cringe-worthy signs and actions. I have no idea where their hearts are, or what God thinks about them, but I don’t identify with that as being part of “Kingdom work.”
The best personal action I can think of recently happened on the night before Thanksgiving last fall. I volunteer for an organization that works with local prostitutes, giving them a hand-up and there was a new girl there that night. For the first time ever, I was someone’s first point-of-contact at the center. She was scared that telling me she’s a lesbian would lead to me asking her to find someplace else to go. My response? “Would you like anything to eat before we get into the rest of these in-take forms?” I heard last week from the center director that this young woman has returned to us several times during the daytime and has asked about me. Wow! Do you see what I’m getting at? My words helped my actions, and reflected more strongly with them. Even more, they have impacted the organization so that she and others feel welcome to come in and get the assistance they are looking for.
Christians don’t need to be preachy or try to act all righteous. They need to forgive and act from places of grace. This still applies to me. I might do things “right” from time to time, but I need correction too. I don’t want to be remembered for my words when I’m gone from this world. I’d far rather be remembered for my actions. Hopefully good ones! I am mostly speaking to the Seattle area, but this call to better accountability in action could be for other pockets of the USA and world as well.
So many speak about their beliefs without considering if their actions measure up. We talk about helping the poor but won’t help the homeless guy begging on the corner. We say it’s a shame that people don’t have clean water in southeast Asia and Africa, but won’t donate the money to help them build proper wells. Instead, we scream that women who abort their unborn children are murderers when what we should be doing is asking them if they need counseling, or if they would like better access to birth control. There is so much inaction in the world. What can you or I do today to speak with our actions, instead of our mouths?