There is an often quoted saying that we ought to preach the Gospel at all times, and use words if necessary, meaning our actions speak louder than words. This is nothing that the attributed speaker ever said (see this from the GospelCoalition), however the message is common.
We are observed by our actions and our words, and those who preach one thing and live something else are dismissed as hypocrites. Politicians who talk big about helping “the little guy (Joe the Plummer, everyone!)” and yet live in seeming prosperity are looked upon with distrust. Someone in ministry who speaks of living consecrated to the Lord and then spends their weekends conked out in front of a screen aren’t bearing the fruit that we anticipate, and we feel deceived.
And so we have the idea that we should “preach” with our lives. Yes, our lives absolutely should line up with Gospel truth! Jesus often ate with sinners, but He certainly didn’t hold back from preaching! At the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is eating with “tax collectors and sinners,” and during the meal some Pharisees accuse Him of not obeying the Law. Well, the old Law was the old setting for the gemstone of God, a placeholder for righteousness so to speak, until the Lord came to fulfill the lack in the old (Matt 5.17-20; a great message about that can be heard here). Jesus told them, “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” He didn’t do that only by eating with decorum and saying “please” and “thank you.” “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6.34) The Beatitudes (Matt 5, Luke 6). While feeding thousands. If you have a red-letter Bible, the red letters are full of power and truth, they are not wishy-washy or hesitating at all.
Lately, I have been challenged in this. It’s convienient and comfortable to do the “build a relationship first! Let them trust you!” It’s awkward and not socially acceptable to walk up to someone and ask them about their soul. To paraphrase a message I heard recently, we don’t want to break the social code by interrupting the guy at Starbucks; we’d rather walk by and say “hi!” with the love of Christ and hope that maybe he sees something in that, and turns away from everything to ask us, what is different about you? Which happens aproximately never.
Choosing to build a relationship before being willing to share the gospel gives many excuses. We aren’t ready to change the relationship if they say no (because their relationship with us is more important than the state of their soul and obedience to Christ?). We can say we don’t connect with that person, aren’t interested in a relationship, so they can pass on to someone else (what if they are in your life, even just sporadically, for you to respond to?). The Holy Spirit didn’t pursue us timidly. Christ didn’t realize we weren’t interested and go back to Heaven to spend his time in luxury with the Angels. He pursued us doggedly.
Relationships are important. Going through life, discipling and growing together, is important. But it’s easy to be comfortable with that instead of challenging someone’s soul. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10.14.
check out this message: ellerslie.com