In my last post on the Baptismal Covenant I discussed the promise to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ” with particular emphasis on proclaiming by word.
Today I would like to discuss the need to proclaim our faith by our deeds. St. Francis of Assisi said something like “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” As a person who likes words (and particularly my own words J) this is something I struggle with. But God is good and faithful and He keeps putting me into situations where I have to use my actions.
Yesterday was a Kairos weekend reunion. There were about 7 “Brothers in Color” that met with about 100 “Brothers in White.” During these weekends, I spend a lot of time proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ by doing something that doesn’t happen much in prison – listening. I listen to the brothers and pray with them and demonstrate God’s love to them by being there for them.
Every Christian should have a minimum of two ministries that build up the Body of Christ. One should be a ministry within the Church. This can take the form of teaching Sunday School, serving as an Acolyte or in the choir or as a Lay Reader or Lay Eucharistic Minister. The service in the Church proclaims the Good News by serving others within the Church. It builds up the Body of Christ by helping others worship or learn about what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.
The second ministry is a ministry from the Church. This is a ministry to those who are not yet members of the Church. Prison ministry can take this form (although many profess Jesus Christ in the prison, there are those who don’t yet know Him). Ministry to the homeless, to hospitals, to the poor, mission trips to other countries all take this second form of proclamation by example. I like to think of this proclamation as “covert evangelism” where we are spreading the good news but not doing it overtly.
This brings me to an important point. We don’t “save” anyone and we don’t “convert” anyone. We don’t even bring people to faith or get them to make a commitment or to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. All those tasks belong to the Holy Spirit, not to us. We may have the joy of being there when someone is moved by the Holy Spirit to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. We may be there when God acts on that persons heart and we may be an instrument of God’s action, but we are not the actor – God is. A friend of mine once said: “Conversion is a Management responsibility. I work in sales.” We all work in sales and a large part of sales is building a relationship. Proclamation by work and example are part of the sales process.
Another part of proclamation by example is how we live our lives. Are we filled with God’s joy or are we depressed and cynical? Do we overcome obstacles and endure suffering well or are we complainers who whine that the world is not fair? How we live will say a lot about our example.
My father was an Air Force officer. When I was in college, I was in Air Force ROTC with the goal of becoming an Air Force Officer myself. My dad asked me if I wanted to lead by example and I said: “Of course I do!” My dad said: "Well, I've got good news and I've got bad news. The good news is that you will lead by example. The bad news is that you have no choice. The men and women you lead will follow your example - not what you say."
Like many things my father told me, I find this to be true. We all lead by example. What does your example say about the Good News of God in Christ?