Monday, May 18, 2009

Can I Get a Witness?

One of the last things Jesus says to his disciples just before he ascends to heaven is, “You will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). What is a witness?

Sometimes we carry a perception that “witnessing” must by definition involve publically telling an emotional story to a group about how the speaker was living a horrible life and turned 180 degrees around after accepting Christ. The experience is quite cathartic; there are almost always tears, uplifted hands, and “Thank you Jesus”-es.

This is indeed a way that witnessing can happen, but by no means the only way. In fact, sometimes our misperception (that this way is the only way) prevents us from witnessing ourselves. Since not many people have the kind of dramatic, emotional life stories that tend to define the caricature of witnessing, we might fall into the trap of thinking we cannot be witnesses ourselves.

We may even think our own testimony unworthy, after hearing an especially touching story. “Well,” we might think, “my life isn’t all that bad. Surely anything I have to say about my relationship with God would be pretty pathetic compared to his.” We therefore minimize how God has been and continues to be active in our lives in a myriad of ways.

The thing is, if you say you are a Christian, you ARE a witness. For Jesus’ disciples, “witness” is the default mode of living. Everything you say, everything you do, every conversation you have, every purchase you make, the kind of house you live in, the kind of car you drive, the amount of time you spend with your kids, the attitude you assume toward your co-workers or classmates, etc. – everything that you are gives testimony about Jesus.

More specifically, everything that you do/say/are gives testimony to who you think Jesus is. Remember, testimony is neutral; in that it can say something negatively just as much as something affirmatively. So for example, if you treat a person with contempt, that says something about who you think Jesus is to those who are watching you. And that wouldn’t be a good thing.

Conversely, knowing Jesus to be loving, compassionate, forgiving, and just, our actions and words and being should testify to that knowledge. Christians ARE Jesus’ witnesses, in our families, in our churches, in our communities, and “to the ends of the earth.”


Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this one.

It reminds all of us that from the moment we get out of bed every day to the moment we go to bed want we do and say and go is very important because people are always watching us---if it is only one person it is still important.

NC Sue said...

Amen, and amen.

If we say we're Christian, we need to back it up with our actions and words. If we are angry, judgmental, and self-righteous, we're missing the boat.

revhipchick said...

amen, brother!

Anonymous said...

I think it's interesting that your brush with the law got 10 times the response that witnessing for our faith! JB

Deanna said...

"Let my words be few..." We have a greater responsibility than we know. We are to be the best us that we can be. This in itself is witness to the wonder and beauty of God's wonderful creation and never yielding love.

Kansas Bob said...

We certainly are witnesses.. the question is what do we witness to.. and is our witness any different that that sweet old humanist down the street :)

cliff rawley said...

Hello Andy, Thanks for your insights. It is a reality that our witness can be a negative one! May we live an honest, generous and compassionate life that will testify that Jesus is alive with power to forgive and transform.

Stresspenguin said...

Acts 1.8 is the baseline scripture for my next 5 months of preaching. I think you gave me the hook to my next two sermons on obedience and devotion to Jesus.


John Montgomery said...

Hi Andy!

I got to spend some time with Diana Butler Bass who spoke of an alternative model for witness, one different than "I was sinking deep in sin." etc. I might go something like this, "My life was going every which way until I went on the mission trip last Fall. I found out how we could change the world as Jesus called us to do and now my priorities are straight. I do hope you will consider joining me this year."