There’s an old saying that is a misquote attributed to Francis of Assisi that goes “Wherever you go, preach the Gospel, and, if necessary, use words.” While the sentiment in the quote does have merit, it actually wasn’t said by Francis and it isn’t really all that correct.
But, it does point out a truth that should be embraced by those of us who follow Jesus Christ. Actions speak louder than words. My grandmother use to say “Your actions are so loud, I can’t hear what your words are saying.”
St. Peter will say as much in today’s Lesson in 1 Peter 3:10-22:
BELOVED, “He that would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do right; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil.”
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right? But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
St. Peter writes to his spiritual children and teaches them about Christian anatomy: If you will “see” good days; keep your “tongue” and “lips” from evil and guile. Because the “eyes” of the Lord and the “ears” of the Lord see the righteous and hear their prayer. Isn’t that cool how the Holy Spirit keeps us remembering that we are the Body of Christ and that the Orthodox faith integrates the physical and the spiritual? But I digress.
Notice St. Peter teaching that we should always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who “calls you to account for the hope that is in you.” It seems Peter assumes (and rightly so) that a believer in Christ will be able to endure suffering and persecution because of hope and not merely information! And look how St. Peter describes how to defend your hope. He never mentions fancy words or deep philosophy at all. He describes the peaceful heart of one who is in love with God. He uses words like “gentleness” and “reverence.” He says the best way to defend your hope is to keep your conscience clear, and, if you do that. when you are abused your abuser will be shamed by your clear conscience!
Suffice it to say that defending our faith certainly means knowing our faith, studying our faith, and not allowing ignorance to steal the treasures of our faith from us, but it can never be merely the gathering of religious information. We must allow the truth of the Faith to grant us what the Lord has always granted His disciples: Peace. It is the internal rest and confidence, the lack of internal torment or disturbance, that sets me free to not allow my outward situation to invade my heart and make me fearful. It is in the embrace of the rhythm of the faith (I know I say that a lot!) that creates peace within my own soul. But that is precisely what defends the faith. Not fancy or brilliant arguments, but a peaceful life!
Today, are you ready to give a defense of your faith to anyone who calls you to account for the confidence you have in the Faith? Better yet, does your peaceful life display that defense to all who watch you live? Defending your Orthodox faith is never just about what you know, but how you live Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Next week I’m off to shoot the videos for our “A Journey to Fullness” outreach video series. I believe that if we had a tool to share our faith with those who visit our communities at festivals, weddings, baptisms, or any time folks come to an Orthodox Church, we would discover many people seeking to enter the Church we have come to love and cherish. Keep up with this project at www.JourneytoFullness.com