Actions speak louder than words?

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What matters more: what we do or what we say? Is it the case that “actions speak louder than words” or “do as I say, not as I do”?

Often, we oscillate between the two depending on what suits as best at the time. When we feel that someone’s words to us aren’t stacking up, we point to their lack of actions; when we know that our actions don’t match up to our words, we declare out that our words matter more. In reality we know that ideally the two would go together, that our actions and words would agree with one another. One of the things that we’ve seen in the early chapters of Acts is that the same is true of our evangelism. Our actions and our words in evangelism need to go together. It’s an error to think that our actions alone are enough for people to come to know Jesus, but without our actions our words either won’t be heard or will tend not to carry any weight.

Acts 3 is a good example of this, Peter does a remarkably good deed to a man who had crippled from birth. Through the name of Jesus, he heals him and has given him his life back. If there was ever a good deed that might turn people to Jesus without any words, then this might be it. But the people who witness it just stare in wonder and amazement. They’re astounded, but they don’t praise God and turn to Jesus in response. Yet, the good deed gives Peter and John hearing, so that their words might be heard. Then they speak of Jesus and the people’s need for him and in response many, many people are saved that afternoon.

Without the good deed Peter and John probably wouldn’t have got the hearing that they did, without their words the crowd wouldn’t have turned and believed in Jesus. Peter and John’s actions and words went together. Their actions gave the people watching a picture of what Jesus could offer and their words helped people to understand what they were seeing.

I wonder if our lives and evangelism bring our actions and words together in quite the same way? Do we elevate what we say above what we do, risking nobody actually hearing us? Or do we elevate what we do above what we say such that no one ever actually hears the good news of Jesus? What would it look like to bring the two back together so that our actions give us an opportunity to speak about Jesus?