When we talk about God

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, January 16, 2019

by Charles Qualls

When we talk about God, we should do so humbly just in case we’re wrong.” 

I heard those words in February of 2008 at a national Baptist event. I know, because I was in charge of ushers for the crowd of 15,000. That sentence has been rattling around in my head ever since. 

Don’t bother Googling this. You won’t find it attributed. If I told you who said it, some of you would love it even more. Some of you would hate it, though, and wouldn’t hear another thing I have to say. So, I’ll just leave it here in all its power and anonymity. 

“When we talk about God, we should do so humbly just in case we’re wrong.”

That doesn’t match up with what I was told as a youth. Back then, a likelier campaign of my faith group would have been characterized by a slogan like “Bold Witness.” We were encouraged to be proud, loud and to have no shortage of willingness. We were to tell everyone we saw about our faith in Jesus Christ.

Truth is, many in my big faith pond would even contend that if you acted in any way that could be construed as “ashamed” of the gospel, that God might not be willing to acknowledge you one day. 

Don’t get me wrong. I wish our people today would be more willing to share of their faith. We tend to be a little too shy, if anything, about letting others in on what’s so important and enriching to our lives through Christ. We also tend to be a little too shy, if anything, about letting people know about the energy and excitement we enjoy these days here at our local church in Franklin. Still, the saying itself should be a guiding word for us. 

Some people like to talk about Jesus, when Jesus himself might wish we talked a little less and did a little more. Jesus, I am convinced, wouldn’t care so much about what we say until we could show a little more about how much we care. Jesus, if forced to choose, I am convinced would want to see us loving before we did the talking.

Why would Jesus care that we do more and talk later? Because the Christ himself lived a life of sacrificial servanthood. As far back as Isaiah, the world was told that when the promised one did come he would lead in this way. Sure enough, Jesus led with his compassion and not with judgment. Jesus talked, no doubt. But, he healed and provided. He cared and gave. 

As long as there have been people to follow Christ’s message, they have looked first at how the one who was talking had lived. They cared whether the preacher was actually a good person before they gave them a chance to preach much. 

“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” That’s what St. Francis of Assisi said. He got it. In every church I’ve served, I’ve always had at least one member who wanted us to get out and do more talking. Trouble is, it’s always hard to get those people to do a dad-blame thing that Jesus would do. They just want us to get out and boldly say the right words about Jesus.

Franklin Baptist Church, believe it or not, is one of those Baptist oxymorons. A group of Baptists who are reticent to witness. In 2019, I am actually going to challenge them to be a smidgen more open to talking about their faith. But, I think I know why they hold back. At least I hope I do. It’s because a great majority of them sense what St. Francis did. They understand what that speaker I heard in 2008 did.

As soon as we describe God, we’ve missed the mark. God defies description. Yet, we must try. As soon as we think we know God, we discover we only know a fraction of the essence of God. As soon as we pretend to speak for God we’re probably only partly right, so big is our God. 

“When we talk about God, we should do so humbly.” That has become an unofficial motto for our Faith on Draft discussions. It doesn’t mean we are wishy-washy. It doesn’t mean we are ashamed of Jesus in any way.

But, it does mean that spiritually mature people understand they earn the right to talk about the faith by first living a little more like the Lord of our faith.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.