Narrative Lectionary Reflection
May 19, 2019
“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”
For many modern Christians, evangelism is something that strikes fear in their hearts. No one wants to be pushy or mean to people. No one wants to have a faith forced upon them. That’s why this above quote attributed to St. Francis is so popular. It’s kind of an escape clause to get out of preaching the gospel.
But, the fact is as Christians we can’t escape evangelism. Christ calls us to go and make disciples. The book of Acts shows the disciples and Paul going throughout the known world to share the gospel or good news of Jesus.
Today, we read the first few verses of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. This is a church that Paul had not visited yet, even though he wanted to. Paul would end up visiting Rome, but just not under his own will. He came to Rome as a prisoner to stand trial and some think Rome is where Paul was executed.
In the opening verses of Romans 1, Paul greets the Romans by saying that he is a servant or slave of Jesus Christ “called to be an apostle and set apart for God’s good news.” The word apostle comes from a Greek word which means “one who is sent.” Paul was called to be sent out into the known world to preach God’s good news. To be sent, you have to be called and Paul also acknowledges that. Paul is saying that God has called him and sent him to tell the Good News to others. Being called is not limited to pastors. Even those sitting the pews are called to be God’s sent people. You are called to be apostles, to be set apart for God’s good news just like I am.
Then we go to verses 16 and 17 where we read that Paul isn’t ashamed of the gospel. Those are strong words for us modern Christians because we tend to be very ashamed of the gospel. Maybe we’ve had bad experiences in church, or maybe we don’t want to look like weirdos. Whatever it is, we don’t want to upset our family and friends. Some of what we see as evangelism seems more interested in “making the sale” than it is about sharing the good news of Jesus with those around us.
But Paul isn’t interested in making the sale. No, Paul’s sharing of the gospel, the sharing of Jesus is because his faith is deeply embedded in his life. Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, not ashamed of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that he has to tell others, not in a way that is pushy, but in way that he talks about how God has worked in his own life.
The quote used at the beginning of the lesson is attributed to St. Francis, but it is not really something he said. This quote really was said by Francis:
“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”
Paul lives the gospel so that it is obvious in his life and they are not just mere words. Yes, we talk about our faith, but we also live by our faith.
We know that Jesus has saved us, saved all of creation. We know that Jesus makes a difference in our lives. It is something that we should talk about, just not like we need to sell a car today to make your commission.
A number of years ago my mother took a flight from Michigan to Minnesota. She was seated next to a woman who it turns out was Jehovah’s Witness. My mother was dreading an hour and a half flight with someone pushing her faith on my Mom.
Instead, the two had a conversation. Both were able to share their faith, but not in a kind of used car salesman way. Instead, they shared what mattered to them and it was an honest conversation about faith and life. My Mom told me she had a good talk with this woman; it was the sharing of lives, not trying to guilt or force someone to believe a certain way.
This what it means to be sent out, to be called by God to share the good news. It is when we share God in our daily lives when we are not willing to keep quiet, but we aren’t willing to disrespect our family and friends and thereby ruin our witness.
What comes to mind when you think about evangelism?
Knowing that the word apostle means sent, what does it mean to be an apostle in this day and age?
Have you ever had a discussion with a friend, relative or even stranger about faith? What was that like?
Dennis Sanders is the Pastor at First Christian Church of St. Paul in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He’s written for various outlets including Christian Century.