The life of another is worth those thousand words you and I must speak in sharing the Good News of our Redeeming Savior and Living Lord.
"A picture is worth a thousand words."
For many things that is true. I would rather soak in a picture of a gorgeous landscape, than try to imagine it through a thousand words working in vain to fully describe it. I would rather be knocked back by a graphic photo of a catastrophe, than try to understand it through a thousand words working in vain to fully capture it. Pictures have a wonderful way of bringing us into an experience of things, which would otherwise be out of reach. For this reason, they have a prominent place for capturing memories and moments to be shared and passed on. However, pictures can only go so far.
Pictures can capture and preserve the moment, but they can't explain the moment. Pictures can capture and preserve emotions, but they can't express emotions. Pictures can capture and preserve an action, but they can't explain intent. Pictures can capture and preserve the effect of an accident or incident, but they can't explain the cause. Pictures can capture and preserve the details of a crime scene, but they can't explain the methods and conclusions of an investigation. A picture can capture and preserve a face, but it cannot reveal a soul. For everything a picture cannot do, we need words...especially when it comes to sharing the Gospel.
A life is worth a thousand words.
Many Christians are banking their witness on that idea, in the hope that they can say more about Christ with their lives than they will have to say with their mouths. They live in the hope that their lives are worth a thousand words they will never have to say in witnessing about Christ and His redemptive work on the cross. They live by the popular little adage, "Share the Gospel...if necessary, use words." I agree with Ray Comfort: "It [makes] as much sense as saying, 'Feed starving children. Where necessary, use food.'" ("Saint Francis...A Sissy?"/Worldview Times - it's worth your time to read it)
God did not give us a picture book - He gave us a Word book. He did not draw the Gospel for us - He expressed His Gospel in His Living Word (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:2), His spoken Word (Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:1; 2 Peter 1:19-21), and His written Word (1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Peter 3:15-16). And in our own witnessing, He expects us to share His Word:
Silence will always be a necessary part of witnessing - we should not do all the talking (letting a statement sink in; asking a question and listening for an answer; listening to beliefs and backgrounds, etc.). In general, wisely being aware of exceptions and ready for them, we should be conversational in our witnessing, not confrontational, and conversation requires giving information and taking information. (We should always remember, though, that the Gospel is always confrontational to self-righteousness and unrighteousness in the human heart, and we should never try to minimize that by watering down its truthful substance.) We are to graciously listen to where people are coming from and apply the truth of God’s Word uniquely to each one (if someone is an atheist, you should talk to him about the clear revelation of God in His creation as noted in Romans 1:18-20ff, as well as the law of God being written on the human heart as revealed by the conscience, as noted in Romans 2:15; if someone grew up under religious oppression, you should talk to her about how Jesus confronted the Pharisees for their dead, cruel religion as opposed to a living, loving relationship with the Father, as seen in Matthew 23 and other passages).
However, silence is not a witnessing strategy in and of itself. There are Christians who actually think they are doing more to lead people to Christ by saying nothing at all about Him! In one of the past churches I pastored, I was talking to them about the difference between non-Christian and Christian charity (feeding the hungry, etc.). As Christians, we are to clearly do our good works to the glory of the Father, in the name of Jesus (Matthew 5:14-16; 10:42). The clear implication is that we, as His disciples, are to lift Him up in works of loving compassion to lead the recipients of our good works to Him. In the discussion with my congregation, one man actually said this to me: “Well, I don’t say anything about the Lord when I do good deeds, because I don’t want to draw attention to myself.” Read that again. I responded then and now, if you don’t say anything about the Lord, whether with your mouth or on what you give, the only one getting the attention is you. If I am silent about Him, the only one I leave to be seen and thanked for my goodness is me. The truth of the matter for that man was that he was too timid to speak up, as we all have been at one time or another.
By the time you finish reading this, you will have read 1,339 words. What if I had only posted the above picture - would you have gotten the message of this article? Yet, far too many Christians are presenting themselves to their lost and perishing friends and neighbors like the woman posing in that picture. They are dressing themselves up nicely, smiling warmly and invitingly, and holding up the speech bubbles of their good lives for all to get the Gospel message, not realizing that all everyone may be seeing is nothing.
My Christian life should be proof of what I say, never a substitute for it. My life should reveal the visible substance of God’s truth, which I should openly, respectfully, and winsomely share (though never perfectly in either case unfortunately). A life is worth a thousand words. The life of another is worth those thousand words you and I must speak in sharing the Good News of our Redeeming Savior and Living Lord.
Image credit: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo