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Fisher of Men

Preach the Gospel in Word and Deed (St. Francis)

This won’t come as a shock, but there seems to be precious little tolerance for the views and opinions of Christians in public schools lately.

 Here are just three examples of the escalating tension involving the expression of faith within educational circles:

1. Christian student groups are being told they can’t require their own club leaders to share their biblical beliefs.

2. An esteemed university for deaf students placed its chief ‘diversity’ officer on leave after she signed a petition in favor of allowing voters to have a referendum on a same-sex marriage law.

3. College and high school students are facing expulsion and suspensions after expressing a biblical viewpoint on sexuality.

And yet, students who have a vibrant faith don’t want to be silenced. As Christians, they want to share the hope they’ve found in Jesus Christ. They want to engage their classmates and teachers in civil discussions over issues that matter. What’s more – they have the right to share their opinions on topics like sexuality, marriage, bullying and anything else that might come up in classroom conversation.

To help students proactively exercise their First Amendment rights, Focus on the Family sponsors a student-led, nationwide free speech event—the Day of Dialogue—happening this coming Thursday, April 18th. This event equips students to exercise their freedom to share their deeply held biblical beliefs about God’s design for marriage and sexuality in a loving and respectful manner. It carves out a safe place for faith-based perspectives and ensures that Christian students have a place at the table and an equal opportunity to share their viewpoint on these current social issues.

Day of Dialogue helps students of faith to open the door and share the truth that God cares for them, their lives and even their sexuality. It gives students an opportunity to stick up for students that are being bullied and to affirm the value and worth of every human life. Through its informative website, Day of Dialogue provides students with practical tips on getting involved and breaking the ice with helpful conversation starters. The website also helps students respond to any challenges that come up by outlining the legal rights and protections they have to promote and participate in the Day of Dialogue in their public school.

Sharing our faith with words isn’t an option for Christians. You may have heard the famous quote attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” As my colleague Glenn Stanton explained in his blog post, that quote has created a “useless dichotomy between speech and action,” and has been used to imply that “those who ‘practice the Gospel’ are more faithful to the faith than those who preach it.”

The only problem is Francis never said it.

Here is what he said:

No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister…All the Friars…should preach by their deeds.

The bottom line here is that Christians are certainly called to live out the Gospel in deed – but we can’t adequately share our faith without words. It’s not a matter of either/or, it’s a matter of both/and.

What Day of Dialogue is helping Christian students do is both practically love their classmates and share God’s truth with them. The opportunity to speak will help open eyes to why Christians have behaved differently during the school year. Giving Christian students a chance to share about their faith will help explain why they don’t engage in bullying and why they care about others.

Jesus Christ both fed the crowds and preached the Sermon on the Mount. In a similar way, our young men and women can show kindness throughout the year and speak the Good News as they engage in conversations that are sometimes difficult, but always loving and honest.

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