Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words only when necessary.” He didn’t actually put it that way, but according to his biographers, he probably would have agreed. Francis lived the kind of life that was hard not to notice. People wanted to know what was different about him. One story sticks in my mind. Francis traveled along on one of the Crusades. He received permission to go to the Muslim camp to meet with the Sultan in order to try to convert the Muslims to Christianity. The Sultan received him and another friar graciously and allowed Francis to speak. (He is reported to have preached using words, by the way.) He didn’t make any converts – at least none that we know of. However, it is very likely that he did win the respect of the Muslims because they allowed only the Franciscans to remain in the Holy Land even after the defeat of the Crusader Kingdom.
I tell that story because Francis’ actions were bold. Anyone who voluntarily leaves a safe place and goes to a dangerous place to show and share the love of Jesus Christ gets our attention. They earn our respect. We wonder why they do what they do and how they do it. In the best sense, the way they live raises compelling questions in our minds. They are living “questionable lives.”
Many Christians adopt the strategy of living out their faith rather than talking about it. I appreciate the sentiment. I’ve known plenty of would be evangelists who would have been wise to keep their mouths shut. Shoot, I’ve be that kind of evangelist. And I know many Christians who do their dead-level best to live honorable lives, being nice, good neighbors. But very few people are so intrigued by honorable living that they want to ask about it. A nice, honorable life makes for a good neighbor. I’m thankful for such a neighbor, but it doesn’t make me want to inquire. I actually expect people to live nice, honorable lives. I’m much more likely to inquire if my neighbor does something unexpected. That means it needs to be noticeable, maybe exceptional.
I’ve got great neighbors, by the way. One of them used to cut my grass. That was unexpected. I inquired. He said he was doing it because I’m a pastor. I was humbled and grateful. Basically, he was going out of his way to be a blessing. A few years ago, my family started taking mission trips to Nicaragua. It surprised people that we were taking our kids. They inquired. We’ve got another neighbor who adopted two special needs foster kids. That was unexpected and huge! A lot of people inquired.
What are you doing to cause people to inquire? Got a plan? It’s not that hard. Buy a stranger a cup of coffee because they look like they are having a bad day. They just might inquire as to why. Start eating lunch once a week with a homeless guy in the city square. People will ask. When a co-worker shares a story about a need, ask if you can pray for them about it and then do it – right there. They’ll remember. If you are intentional about being a blessing, you will begin to live a more adventurous, more questionable life.
Let me share some practical direction for all of this from a guy named Michael Frost. He explains that to live a questionable life, it is best to be intentional about it, to have a strategy. Here’s his. It’s called BELLS.
- Bless three people. If you do, you’ll become known as a generous person. Try to bless one who isn’t a Christian or a church person. By the way, we do this because God has done it for us. Did you know that some people don’t think the God of the Bible is gracious and compassionate – mainly because they don’t see it in us. Bless three each week and that’ll begin to change in your world.
- Eat with three people. If you do, you’ll begin to share your life with people around you. Try to eat with one person who isn’t a church person. Did you know that some people think Christians are odd, selfish, or weird. If you eat with someone and are simply a friend, those perceptions will likely change, too.
- Learn Christ. Read the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Learn the patterns Jesus lived. It will bring healing, perspective, and hope to your daily life and you’ll find insight for being a blessing. Also, you’ll gain competency in living like Christ. When you wonder how Jesus would handle a situation, you’ll find you have an answer. When you need inspiration and motivation, you’ll probably get that, as well.
- Listen for the Spirit. God wants to lead us. Really. If you learn to discern the promptings of the Spirit of God, you’ll begin to be where God wants you and prepared to be who God wants you to be in situations. If you do, your life will be more adventurous – complete with the joys and struggles.
- See yourself as sent by God. Do this, and your life will take on deeper meaning. In John 20:21, Jesus tells his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” That’s astounding to me. If we see ourselves as sent by God, everything is given new and deeper meaning. There is no higher purpose or calling. You and I are on a mission from God.
So let’s go! Bless three. Eat with three. Learn Christ. Listen for the Spirit. See yourself as sent. B.E.L.L.S. I’ve been at it already. Yesterday, I began the day with prayer and decided to live like someone who’d been sent. I won’t go into details, but the day became kind of adventurous and fun. Give it a try. See what happens. Maybe someone will want to know what the heck you’re doing.