Disney’s The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite animated films. Watching it when I was in junior high, you would think I’d have identified with the prince but I normally identified more with Ariel, the mermaid who was magically transformed into a human girl and had three days to get Prince Eric to fall in love with her and kiss her, all while the evil Sea Witch, Ursula, held her voice hostage. I don’t think I was ever what you would call shy, but I was very reserved when it came to approaching girls. I liked to do things for the girls I liked, showing them that I liked them before I ever said a word to them. So Ariel, who had to win the heart of the prince without the use of her voice, was easy for me to identify with. And over the course of the movie, even though Prince Eric was looking for the woman with the beautiful voice who had saved him on the beach, he ended up falling in love with Ariel simply because of the things she did, because of who she was, without ever speaking (or singing) a word.
1 Peter 3:1-2 gives instructions for wives in dealing with their husbands, but they apply to all of us when it comes to trying to share the Gospel with the people around us. Peter writes, In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives (NLT). I’ve known some women who desperately wanted their husbands to come to Christ and a couple of times, the husband got so tired of hearing the Gospel from their wives that they eventually ordered them to stop talking about it. Peter, I think, was talking to women in that kind of predicament, women who cared deeply for their husbands and who desperately wanted them to come to Christ, but whose husbands didn’t want to hear about it anymore. To those women, Peter said, “Obey your husbands. Stop talking to them about the Gospel. Show it to them instead.” Talking to people about the Gospel is much easier than living it out consistently in front of them. But even though living the Gospel out is much harder, doing so is much more effective than simply talking.
As we go through our daily routines, interacting with co-workers and family members, neighbors and classmates, there are times when talking about the Gospel simply isn’t a viable possibility. Sometimes people don’t want to hear it. Sometimes they have heard it so often they just nod along while thinking about something else. Sometimes doing our job right makes it difficult or perhaps the work place prohibits religious speech (as much or perhaps even more than is legal). In any and all of these cases, rather than getting frustrated or angry that talking about the Gospel is difficult, frowned upon, or ill-received, show the Gospel to people instead. Intentionally make your life a living billboard for the love of God. Love people sincerely. Serve people without expecting anything in return. Show compassion to the hurting and give mercy to those who behave badly. Live the kind of pure and reverent life that will win people over without words.
Sharing the Gospel with people isn’t just about telling them about the love of God, but about showing them the love of God. A less than stellar life can drive people away from the Gospel we share in words, but a pure and reverent life of love can draw people in and prepare their hearts to receive the Gospel when we finally do speak. When we share the Gospel, let’s win people over with our lives as well as our words.