What does it mean to be a strong witness for Christ?
What does it really mean to be a strong witness for Christ?
Throughout my life I have often heard preachers, youth ministers, evangelists and countless others encouraging their hearers to bear a strong witness. How does one do this? Often a “strong Christian witness” is thought of in these ways:
- Being able to quote the right scripture at the right time and completely from memory
- Displaying symbols such as crosses, the “Jesus fish” and other images
- Being very vocal about what
theyGod areis against
- Explaining everything under the sun as “God’s will” (especially tragedy)
- Vocally and passionately articulate their political views (“God’s on my side here!”)
Now, let me be clear: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of those things so long as they are done in a spirit of charity and grace as opposed to one of domination and attempting to belittle someone or their views. I believe that bearing a strong witness for Christ involves much more than our political leanings and the stickers displayed on our cars.
Being a strong witness for Christ is a lifestyle which must be lived, not one that is merely talked about.
For my Missional Formation class today, I have been reading a keynote speech that was given by Dr. Christine Pohl at the Wesleyan Theological Society’s annual meeting in 2006. One of the takeaways I have gained is that simply being hospitable can bear a strong witness for Christ. But what is hospitality? It’s more than cooking or offering our friends a place to sit. Hospitality means we have to open our tables and our witness to everyone, not just those we love or who have something to offer. From the transcript of Dr. Pohl’s speech:
Based on the biblical passages of Matthew 25:31-46 and Luke 14:12-14, Christians were expected to offer hospitality to those most likely to be overlooked, anticipating that it might be Jesus they were welcoming. According to Jesus’ instructions, when followers welcomed people to their tables, it should be the poor and infirm, those who seemed to have the least to offer.
Perhaps one way to look at this is that we should extend hospitality to everyone we come into contact with. That doesn’t mean we have to invite everyone over for dinner but it does mean making space for people to meet Christ through us right where they are. We can not be brash and demeaning in our witness; if we think that such an attitude will win anyone to Christ we are delusional at best and just plain crazy at worst. Instead, we are to show everyone a generous and loving spirit of grace. We have been given much grace therefore we should be quick to give it ourselves. I know that I don’t always make God happy but I also know that God loves me and forgives me so long as my trust is in Christ. Just as God is quick to love and slow to anger, we should be likewise (see James 1:19-27).
Be hospitable. Be loving. Above all – through your everyday living – offer Christ to everyone you encounter regardless of who they are, how much you disagree with them or what they lack.