“Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” This quote, or words to this effect, are often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. However, there is no record of Francis having said or written any such thing. The closest to this thought is found in his twelfth of the rules for friars (frères or brothers) from 1221 in which Francis required that those who preach “must first draw from secret prayers what he will later pour out in holy sermons” and “all the friars… should preach by their deeds.” These latter words align with the admonition found in James’ letter that faith without corresponding works is dead, a lifeless and meaningless claim to faith (James 2:17).
With the advent of social media many Christians seem to have adopted an inverse variation on the theme, “Use words. If necessary preach the gospel.” The absence of biblical influence on the behaviour of too many users of social media, including Christians, is evident by the tone in its use which is often self-focused or unrestrainedly negative. Taking into account an individual’s posting trend it can be jarring when someone quotes Scripture or identifies as a Christ-follower. What are we doing unto others?
Three months ago, I felt a prompting to address this inconsistency through ninety days of questions about our social media behaviour, framed in light of Scripture used in context so that those interested might either know the context or open the Bible to read the context. Ninety days of biblical quotes and relevant questions would daily be constrained by the 280-character limit of Twitter.
I don’t chase or follow every prompting, but experience has taught that when a prompting aligns with Scripture and the challenge to live with Christlike character it’s one to pursue. As Francis might have advised his friars, first draw from private prayer what will be poured out in 280 characters or less. This was my ninety day challenge as much as in sharing it became ours.
For those who might want to take up your own ninety days of biblical reflection about social media use, here they are. [Link below]