I have been writing towards my new book this week-end. The thing that has really blessed me has not been so much my own writing but that of the guy I’m writing with. Wow he’s good. Simon Goddard is such a gifted writer and he has so beautifully woven together his story, the example of St Francis and the five core values of the Baptist union! These came out of a consultation within the Baptist Union of Great Britain back in 1996 and he has re-examined these values from a big-hearted perspective. He identifies that to be a big hearted church we need to be a community that is 1) gospel telling 2) gospel dwelling 3) generously giving 4) grace growing and 5) glory glowing.
Here’s a wee snippet of something from the life of St Francis:
Before his conversion Francis had been known to mock those who suffered with leprosy: looking in the direction of their house, which was still two miles away, he had held his nose as if the smell offended him. But now, as he began to grow in grace and in the power of God, upon meeting lepers God would enable him to go near them and greet them with a kiss. Indeed, Francis, filled with compassion, would often visit their homes in order to wash them and carefully cleanse the ulcers that covered their skin.[i]
Over the years many people joined Francis and some of these brothers set up a leper hospital. On one occasion, when Francis was visiting, he encountered a patient who constantly blasphemed and was violent and abusive to all who had tried to serve him. Francis prayed for the man and then, after greeting him, he asked what could be done. “Wash me all over” the man said, “for I am so disgusting that I cannot bear myself.” Miraculously, as Francis washed the man, his leprosy was healed and he began to weep bitterly and repent of his sins. [ii]