Was Francis Of Assisi Wrong?

Wood statue of Saint Francis of Assisi

Wood statue of Saint Francis of Assis by Peter Hodges on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

“Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words.” These words are often attributed to Francis of Assisi, although their origin is unknown.

But whatever their source, this quotation is often cited with approval. The idea seems to be that the Christian can live a good life as an authentic witness, but does not really have to work up the courage to speak about Jesus Christ and faith. Thus Christians can still believe they are witnessing to their faith, but they avoid the embarrassing parts.

Maybe the approach of the Australian teacher Michael Frost is better. He speaks of the need to live a ‘questionable life’. Yes, of course Christians should live a good and holy life before the watching world, but it should be such a life as provokes questions – questions that we should then be prepared to answer.

Watch Frost expound on this idea here. You will need to register for a free Exponential account, but it is well worth it.

Soft Difference: Reacting To Hostility And Indifference In Society

Anger

Anger 2 by Fer Montero on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Australian pastor Karina Kreminski recounts an awkward TV debate in which the well known British journalist and practising Christian Peter Hitchens reacted defensively in the presence of three other guests and an audience that largely did not appreciate Christian convictions.

Acknowledging the difficulty of the situation and appreciating too that Christians feel increasingly marginalised in western society, she wonders how we should react in order to offer a good witness to Christ.

To that end she cites the work of the Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf, who speaks of Christians presenting a ‘soft difference’, based on 1 Peter, an epistle where the Christians are described as ‘aliens’ who need to be witnesses to Christ, but ‘with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15). We should not play down our differences – they are real. But we need to do so in a ‘soft’ way, reflecting the gentleness of Christ, rather than haranguing those with whom we disagree. (Volf’s article can be found here, but be aware that it isn’t written at a ‘popular’ level.)

What is your experience of this dilemma? Do you minimise the differences in order to avoid conflict? Do you become aggressive? Or do you manage to express this ‘soft difference’? If so, what do you find helpful in enabling you to do so?