Being A Christian Witness

Once up on a time Maharajas and governments appointed Christian Officers to handle responsibilities that required extreme integrity. There was a time when quality conscious customers crowded at business establishments run by Christians. In the past people trusted hospitals operated by Christian missionaries to get reliable and affordable medical care. You may recall the time when non-Christian parents wanted their children to be educated in ‘Christian’ schools. I know, you can add to this testimony statement of a Christian community that was.

A friend of mine was looking around for a reliable contractor for some repairs on the house they bought recently. They stumbled up on this man who seemed to be reasonable. More over they were impressed by his ‘Christian features’. He carried his Bible, read from it and talked about it. He clamoured about his church and its activities. But once he got the job and the advance cheque, everything was not so ‘Christian’ about him. He started off vigorously but became sluggish very soon. He vanished for a while until they took the trouble to trace him. He started telling lies to extract more money, used inferior materials and left them in deep trouble. They had promised to vacate their rented house with the hope that the new house will be ready by then. More over, the bank would start cutting the monthly installment towards their loan from the next month and if they did not move into the new house the rent and the loan payment will leave them with hardly anything to survive on. All because of the unchristian behaviour of a ‘Christian’ contractor. If they have lost confidence in people with a ‘Christian’ tag how about the non-Christian world?

When the Christian Church was smaller by millions it had better influence on the society than today. We have heard of great people making statements like “If I see one genuine Christian around I too would become one”. Although God will not accept it as an excuse for their turning down His offer of salvation through the death of His Son, He may use it as a witness against us on the day of reckoning.

Unparalleled Christian Witness

To “make disciples of all peoples by preaching, baptizing and teaching” was the last (and hence the ‘Great’) Commission Jesus gave his disciples and we should fulfill it meticulously. The first century disciples of Christ obeyed it and turned their world right side up. Generation after generation the followers of Christ have been trying to obey this Commission. However, with all the scientific developments that enhance communication the Church is not influencing the world as the handful of disciples did in the first century. They did not have tools, techniques, budgets or gadgets but they had the power of the Holy Spirit with which they shook the world.

God used the simple, uneducated, ordinary folks to do extraordinary things because they had unreservedly committed their lives to Him and absolutely depended on His power. God could use their unskillful lives as well as the highly educated life of apostle Paul. But the basis on which He did it was just the same – unreserved commitment and absolute dependence. God can use us today, with all our modern tools and techniques, again on the same condition.

However, obedience to the Great Commission will not excuse us from fulfilling all the other commissions and commands the Lord has given. He had summed it up for the disciples in two commands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. (Mt. 22:37-40 CEV)

The lives of these disciples also reflected a quality of life that easily identified them as followers of Christ. They were referred to as people of “the Way” (Act. 9:2; 18:25,26; 19:9,23; 24:14,22) and were derisively named “Christians” (loyal followers of Christ) by the people of Antioch (Act. 11:25).

Lopsided Christian Witness

A story is told of a roadside vendor who was selling a special medicine that was supposed to cure baldness and help hair growth. He was very convincing in his promotional talk that a big crowd had gathered and most of them were buying the medicine. Suddenly a strong wind blew his hat off his head and to the surprise of the crowd he was totally bald. They threw his medicine at him and demanded their money. How can someone believe your preaching if it has not affected your own life?

The fulfillment of the Great Commission can happen neither through lukewarm, fruitless, callous churchgoers nor through the self-centred, pleasure loving, prosperity seeking evangelicals. Modern day evangelists may be able to preach the gospel message eloquently to the entire world but making disciples of all peoples is not achieved by professional efficiency or personal charisma. Today we have jumbo churches with mega budgets and mammoth projects but marginal influence on the communities. There has been aggressive preaching and proclamation but poor practicing and affirmation. Thus, in effect, we are sending out a wrong message, not the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Once I was going out with my family and on the way another vehicle came from the wrong side and hit ours. Even after being on the wrong the driver of the other car accused me of not giving him way. At this I got angry and shouted back at him trying to show him that he made the mistake. My wife reminded me that though I was right as per driving rules I was wrong in getting angry. “If that man comes to the church where you are preaching, what will be his evaluation of you?” she asked. I realized my mistake. Driving in city traffic during peak hours can be a test of our spirituality. It can also provide us opportunities to be a witness for Christ.

These days more and more people display bumper stickers and banners on their vehicles with phrases like “Praise the Lord”; “Jesus loves you”; “Jesus Saves”; “Jesus Never Fails” etc. It is a bold way of identifying yourself with having faith in Jesus Christ. However, it can bring a negative effect if our life does not match it. People who read these signs can also read our lives. Our lives are larger billboards and every attitude, word and action display some message about who we really are. The world will expect us to behave like Christians at all circumstances. If we are not prepared for it we will be sending out wrong messages about our Christian faith.

Effective Christian Witness

A Christian Police Officer who is highly respected for his integrity, commitment and testimony once narrated this incident. As the Inspector General (IG) of Prisons he visited a jail where a prisoner came to see him. He told the IG that he too was a Christian. “You are a Christian! Is this the place you ought to be?” the IG asked him. What a shameful testimony of a Christian! Apostle Peter reminds us, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer”(1Pet. 4:14,15 NAB).

Jesus told us, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt. 5:13-16 NAB).

Along with the Great Commission the Lord also told the disciples how to go about it. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NAB). The challenge is to be His witnesses and thus fulfill the command. The Word of God reminds us of the need to “be” more than to “do”. Without being what God wants us to be we cannot do what God wants us to do. Only a true disciple who is empowered by the Holy Spirit can effectively disciple others. There are fights and lawsuits between Christian denominations because the people in leadership are not willing to be like Christ. There is much propaganda in evangelistic meetings that the audience is confused about the message. There is obvious difference between the preacher’s pulpit life and personal life that the listeners wonder which is true. They are preaching a different gospel through their life and witness. Remember the warning of the Scripture:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach (to you) a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed” (Gal. 1:8 NAB)

A Christian must be a Christian, always and at any cost. This is not an option but a command given to us. We must realize that there is no middle ground in this matter. We are either witnesses of Christ or agents of the devil. To be the latter one need not do anything but to be a witness for Christ is costly. It involves the conscious, continuous commitment of our total life to Him, as Paul says in Rom. 12:1,2

“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (NAB).

We are called to be a cut above the rest. When the whole world is dark you are called to be its light. When the world around is bland, callous and unconcerned, you are called to be its taste agent. If your life doesn’t exhibit the beauty of Christ and spread the fragrance of Christ why should others listen to your preaching and read your scriptures?

How do we strike a balance in our Christian witness? It is only by being a Christian, by living a fruitful Christian life. A fruit-bearing Christian is an effective witness, both in his walk and his talk.


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