Friday, April 13, 2007

Witness

A friend is doing a sermon on what it means to be a witness and asked me what I thought. What does it mean to be God's witness and what does that actually look like? Not like me is all I know so far!

Dwight Pryor spoke of a survey of evangelical Christians in the US and the survey noted that being a Christian had made little discernable difference the outworkings of people's material lives. They drove the same cars, watched the same TV programmes, went on the same exotic holidays and hence the witness was hard to discern from the non-Christian neighbour. The same is similarly true of here, so I am not being down on our friends across the water.

Is that the Jesus way?

Is there a difference between witness and evangelism or apologetics. The oft quoted verse is the one from 1 Peter 5 about always being able to give an answer for the hope that we have. I have often seen that interpreted as us being able to give a clever answer on what happens to the muslims or a reasoned explanation of suffering babies in Africa.

If I am really honest, I can't remember the last time anybody asked me about the hope that I have. That's probably because I don't look very hopeful. If I was, they would ask wouldn't they? Oh that more may ask.

When did anyone last time anyone asked you what the source of your hope is?

Isn't being a witness so exuding the aroma and grace and love of Christ that people want what I have got? That't the sort of hope I want to give away.

Eugene Peterson comments:

'I am often put on the spot of being God's defender. I am expected to explain God to his disapointed clients. I am thrust into the ole of clerk of a complaints department of humanity, asked to trace down bad service, listen sympathetically to aggrieved patrons, try to put right any mistakes I can and apologise for the rudeness of the management.

But if I accept the assignment I misunderstand my proper work, for God doesn't need me to defend him.......The proper work for the Christian is witness, not apology'

My friend asked me for an good illustration for his sermon and the only thing that came to mind was, rather appropiately, the film 'Witness'. In it, Harrison Ford goes undercover with an Amish Communinity, who certainly cannot be accused of not looking discernably different from others as they live out their discipleship. In one scene, they drive into town and one of the Amish is intimidated by a bunch of youths who bate him by splatting his face with an ice cream

Why?

Because they know he is different and they know how he will respond. Sure enough he does not retaliate. When they try the same with Ford, they recieve a most unexpected response - a thump in the face.

Isn't our Christian witness sometimes a bit like this scene? On the one hand, because we look and seem like everyone else people rarely do come looking, but if they do, we hit them over the head with what J John so wonderfully calls 'sledge-hammer evangelism' that puts them further back in their search for God than before they met us.

Our witness equivalent for most people is a bit like meeting Harrison Ford and perhaps, just maybe, the Amish and their radically different lives have a thing or two to teach us about what witnessing might actually look like.

So, wide-brimmed hats, short trousers and a horse and cart all round then.

Radical lives and a saved planet to boot.

Now there's a plan.

Just a thought.

Hope this is a help my friend.