Wineskins Archive

October 6, 2016

AfterGlow: Preaching With or Without Words (Nov-Dec 1993)

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by Phillip Morrison
November – December, 1993

John the Baptist, chosen by God to prepare the way for Jesus, was such a gold and fearless proclaimer that he gave hs life rather than abandon his principles.

But there came a day when even John’s certainty wavered while he languished in Herod’s prison cell. He sent some disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Resisting whatever inclination he might have had to display his divine credentials or assert his doctrinal and personal purity, Jesus chose to talk about his concern for people: “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Luke 7:18-22). We are not expected to duplicate Jesus’ miraculous powers, but we are not excused from the obligation of being concerned about every human misery and preaching good news to the poor.

After two millennia, Jesus is still remembered for the force of such preaching as the Sermon on the Mount. But he is remembered even more as the loving Savior, one who cares, one who could shed tears with his friends, one who was sensitive to every touch and every shadow.

In Jesus’ absence from the earth, God’s people must preach the Christ who gives help and hope. Paul might have resented the fact that some were preaching the gospel out of envy, rivalry, selfish ambition, or other improper motives. “But what does it matter?” he asked. “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (Philippians 1:15-18). As Peterson puts it: “I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!”

Wineskins is dedicated to the proclamation of important things (See 1 Corinthians 15:3). That’s why we don’t answer every criticism or respond to every challenge. we prefer to keep as busy as we can, doing the best job we can to properly represent Christ in our world. This issue, by encouraging Christians to care about the poor and homeless, may come nearer to capturing the spirit of Christ than any we have ever done. we can’t do everything Jesus did, but we can give cups of cold water in his name, comfort those left battered and bleeding by the wayside, campaign for social justice, and see that the poor have the good news preached to them.

Words have never been more plentiful or deeds more scarce. The proper relationship between the two is found in a statement attributed to St. Augustine: “Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words.”

Phillip Morrison

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