It’s still drippy and wet outside, too wet and cold to go out and do any of the myriad of things that need to be done before winter really sets in so my choices for this, my day off are somewhat limited. So, I am back in my living room chair, laptop on my lap and tired of staring out the window and not actually needing another nap right now. So, maybe I will return to the witnessing theme.
If it is true that we are witnesses by virtue of being believers, then the only choice we have about witnessing is how good a witness we will be and what kind of god we will give witness to. Now, the more I look at it and think about it, I am not really sure that we actually have much of a choice about how good a witness we will be–it is the people who see and hear our witness who actually determine how good a witness we are.
Given the current state of the Christian faith in North America, I think we can safely say that either our witness is being evaluated as poor or, we are effectively witnessing to a god who doesn’t interest most people in North America. And before we begin offering remedial witnessing classes to make us all better witnesses, maybe we need to spend some serious time thinking about the god we are giving witness to.
I am no longer sure that we as believers are always giving witness to the one, true, eternal, loving God whose love, grace and mercy are shown so clearly and powerfully in the risen and living Jesus Christ. And maybe the lack of response to our witness isn’t a result of us doing a poor job of witnessing but rather, the result of our doing a good job of witnessing to the wrong god.
And if that is the case–and obviously, I think that is at least part of the reality in our world today–then we need to begin at the bottom and renew our understanding of the God we claim to follow and give witness to. We worship a God whose relationship with humanity is most clearly and powerfully shown in Jesus Christ, whose life, death and resurrection show us a God who will literally move heaven and earth to bring even one person back into relationship with him.
I think that unless our witness to God is grounded and shaped by the reality of Jesus Christ, we have missed the point and are giving witness to the wrong God. Anything that obscures or dilutes the love and grace of God shown in the risen and living Christ takes the witness of the faith down a side road that ultimately leads away from God not to him.
I think that unless our witness to God is rooted in a basic commitment to remembering that God is love (I John 4.8), we have missed the point and therefore may be good and effective witnesses but are simply not giving witness to the true God.
A witness that is true and effective at showing the real God needs to be focused on the love and grace of God, a love and grace that we understand because of our personal experience with it. That is not to say that everyone needs to experience the love and grace of God the way we experienced it–one of the wonders of God’s love and grace is that it have room for the incredible diversity of humanity and human experience. My personal experience of God’s love and grace is a central part of who I am–but probably won’t be central to another person. They will experience God’s love and grace in their own way. I give witness to the reality of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ–not to the way it came to me.
Building our witness becomes possible only as we spend time with God, understanding his love and grace. We need time and effort to learn of God–but the unfortunate reality is that we don’t get to learn witnessing before we do it. Discipleship is on the job training so we are trying to learn at the same time we are actually doing the job. From personal experience, I know that this is both the most difficult and most effective form of witness training.
Fortunately for us, there is help for us in the process–which we will look at in the next post.
May the peace of God be with you.