what if the truth were "that catchy quote isnt actually what was said...nor is it even true"?

i love a good, thought provoking quote. each day i spend more than a few minutes picking out a good quote from whatever i am reading or another trusted source to put as my facebook status for the day. so i am always on the lookout for a good quote.

one that i have seen often (and again today) that has been attributed to different people (i have seen it attributed to augustine, st. francis of assisi among others) is “preach the gospel at all times, use words if [or when] necessary”.

on the surface that sounds good. it appeals to our “talk is cheap/ actions speak louder than words” way of thinking. but when we consider what the gospel is- information conveying absolute truth of how mankind can go from being an enemy of god to a friend of god- then saying “use words if necessary” seems like a pretty foolish thing to say.

how do you “act out” or demonstrate the need for all mankind to recognize their sin and status as enemies of god, then christ’s life, death, & resurrection and explain that as the appeasement and acceptable sacrifice for our sin, as well as his righteousness being our ground for justification before god- all without using words?

now, i am all for our living our lives in obedience to god’s word in hopes that we can set an example for what an obedient christian life looks like, but the truth remains- no one will “hear the gospel” by our actions alone. rom. 10:14& 17 are clear in their insistence that the gospel is information to be communicated verbally.

i stumbled onto this blog with an interesting and informative post on this very topic. i will quote the post in full:

Mark Galli posts an excellent essay on the Christianity Today website that dispels the notion that Francis of Assisi taught, “Preach the gospel; use words if necessary.” Galli refutes the modern idea that talk is cheap and living the truth is the only requirement of preaching the gospel. However, Francis preached, Jesus taught, and the Apostle Paul declared the saving truth of salvation by faith through grace AND they lived holy and exemplary lives.

I’ve heard the quote once too often. It’s time to set the record straight-about the quote, and about the gospel. Francis of Assisi is said to have said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough-that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it. The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age. . . .

“Preach the gospel; use words if necessary” goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets and Jesus and Paul put on preaching. Of course we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns. . . .

That being said, a better saying (which you can attribute to anyone you like) is this: Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.

Mark Galli, “Speak the Gospel” Christianity Today magazine, May 2009 (Web only).

so we must be careful with how we use quotes- we must not sacrifice “catchy” or “edgy” for truth.