John Piper tweeted this recently:
Preach the gospel; if necessary use words” is like saying “feed the poor & if necessary use food.”

photo from anotherespressoplease

Piper is referring to an oft-used and oft-misquoted statement by St. Francis of Asissi. I’m pretty sure Piper misquoted it himself.

Although I have been frustrated with Piper lately—his recent statements about God and masculinity—I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with him here. I understand the meaning of the quote…that our lives should reflect the gospel constantly…

However, on missions trips, in service projects, and at outreach events, that quote is thrown around almost like IT is gospel, and it’s been used as an excuse not to preach the word or share the good news of Jesus with your neighbor. I’ve used it as an excuse.

I get it. Nobody wants to be the crazy guy on the street corner or the woman who asks the checkout lady at Target if she knows where she’ll go when she dies. To say the least, that’s awkward.

But, what is it that keeps us from preaching the word and evangelizing? (I confess that I even tend to cringe when I hear that word.)

I daresay that we haven’t seen it modeled well. We’ve seen tracts passed out in lieu of tips at restaurants. We’ve seen standoffs over political issues. But we don’t often see long-term sustainable, relational, and incarnational discipleship.

Even more than that, we haven’t allowed ourselves to be moved by the absolute beauty of the gospel, of the Word that became flesh.

In the 4th grade I wrote a poem called “The Flamingo.” I drew a flamingo on pink construction paper, cut it out, and wrote the words of the poem on its body. It was about how I never wanted to be a flamingo because I didn’t want to stand on one leg all day. My teacher hung it on her wall and put a star next to it. She submitted it to a newspaper and it was published. I was invited to read it in front of the whole school.

It was powerful for me to see my words in flesh, on paper. But more powerful still, was seeing my flesh—my story—turned into word. That which was on my mind and in my heart (even if it was just about a flamingo) was now in the world.

If God took the time to wrap His story in bones, sinew, blood, muscle, fat, callouses, hangnails, and headaches and then break and surrender those bones and blood and callouses for us—all so that His Word would have matter—then the least we can do is carry it on ourselves, make his Words matter.

The act of sharing the Word, of evangelizing—whether in writing or telling in coffee houses or pulpits—the act of bringing our sin, our weakness, and our shame into light; that act – the telling – brings healing to those who are broken. That act – sharing the gospel – allows God to display His light in the darkness. That act – preaching His word – speaks freedom to the captive.

Word-smithing, story-telling, turning our flesh into word—that is sharing the gospel.

So bring your ugliness, nakedness, sinfulness, bullying, bad attitudes and mistakes to the light. Speak them aloud, and tell of how God does what He does. He turns our flesh into something full of wonder, something worth talking about.

Share the beauty of the gospel at all times and don’t fail to use the words. Talk the walk.

God became flesh in Jesus. He died and rose again so that you and I and the lady at Target will know that we are loved and free and forgiven, that our stories matter, and that His Word is a good word—the loudest word.

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