Francis of Assisi is frequently quoted approvingly, “Tell of Christ at all times. Use words if necessary.” The implication is that words are rarely needed. If we only act like kind, loving, nice people then others will see Jesus in us and come to faith in him. Acting in a loving way is definitely a sine qua non of evangelism. But it’s just not enough. We humans just aren’t smart enough to get it. A picture just isn’t worth a thousand words in all cases.
Consider the picture Glenn Reynolds posts from Michael Yon. What do you see when you look at the picture? Some guys putting a cross on top of a building. Big deal. But then you hear that it’s from Iraq. Huge deal. But what deal is it? Is it pictorial evidence that the complex event we call “The Iraq War” is just another crusade – that now we’re going so far as to put crosses on top of their buildings? The picture needs words to put it in context. Here are Yon’s contextualizing words (via Instapundit):
“I photographed men and women, both Christians and Muslims, placing a cross atop the St. John’s Church in Baghdad. They had taken the cross from storage and a man washed it before carrying it up to the dome. A Muslim man had invited the American soldiers from ‘Chosen’ Company 2-12 Cavalry to the church, where I videotaped as Muslims and Christians worked and rejoiced at the reopening of St John’s, an occasion all viewed as a sign of hope. The Iraqis asked me to convey a message of thanks to the American people. ‘Thank you, thank you,’ the people were saying. One man said, ‘Thank you for peace.’ Another man, a Muslim, said ‘All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.’ The men and women were holding bells, and for the first time in memory freedom rang over the ravaged land between two rivers.”
Very different than the story of Crusades, isn’t it? Instead of a picture that says, “The Christians are here to conquer us and force us to be Christians,” the picture with caption says, “At least this once we’re working across accustomed boundaries – Muslim and Christian, Iraq and American – to do something. We hope this is what happens in the future.”
So please, when you tell people of Jesus, don’t forget to provide a caption for your pictures.