The art of the witness
“Thanks, 2016. It’s been weird,” read a Spotify ad on a New York City billboard.
It was a running theme throughout the year, and Spotify’s marketing team capitalized on it. From Leonardo DiCaprio’s first Oscar victory after decades in the industry, the world’s mourning over the death of a gorilla named Harambe, and the victory of President Donald J. Trump over frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, 2016 seemed to be full of surprises.
2017 has also ceased to relent in its surprises and high-drama news. Media outlets argued for days on topics like the crowd sizes at the Presidential Inauguration, as well as the ongoing marches and protests for various political and social issues nationwide. For every positive story shared, it seems five negative stories follow.
How are we, as Christians, expected to keep above the waves of worldliness and dread when it seems to continuously bombard our TV and computer screens?
Two words: Through example.
1 Peter 2:12 tells us, “Continue to live such good lives among the pagans that, when they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
As we watch the news and scroll through our newsfeeds, we can see the chains of sin in this world right in front of us. Hate. War. Misguided morals. Complacency. Comfort.
Any passionate Christian may become frustrated or angry and wish to impose their beliefs on their audience. I admit I’m not immune to this behavior. At first, we begin by sharing posts aligning with our Christian values. Later, we post statuses that preach to its viewers- bible verses, blog posts, you name it. Yet sometimes our positive messages of hope and faith can turn into angry berading toward nonbelievers.
Who will believe that Christians preach of peace and acceptance if we result to talking down on those who do not think like us? Who will believe that Christians value compassion if we do not learn to see our neighbors beyond their flaws and failures?
Our words will only fall on deaf ears among our non-Christian peers unless we can provide a tangible example to what Christianity looks like. Our light shines the brightest when we stand in the midst of God’s will for our lives, and we can only know God’s will by following the example of his son, Jesus.
Reading our bibles and studying what it means to live a devout Christian lifestyle, while showing love and compassion toward our non-believing neighbors, are the first steps to setting an example we wish others to see.
Jesus asks us to love one another as he loved us (John 13:34). It’s not a conditional love, but a sacrificial love. Jesus did not come to die for only the clergy and pious, but for all sinners. His love was for everyone, that if we follow him, we will find eternal life.
How do we live this out in our lives? Rather than labelling and judging others, we learn the life stories of those around us. We take interest in the lives of our neighbors and peers. We give eye contact and smile often. We provide acts of services without being asked. We do things that bring us out of our comfort zone. We offer our hearts for others, and hope in turn that they will see the source of our love- Jesus Christ.
Again and again it is important that we look beyond the sins and downfalls of those around us, and have compassion for the souls and stories of our neighbors.
To another point, as Christians, we cannot hold non-Christians to our standard. This may sit wrong with some, but Paul reinforces this sentiment in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5:
“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world…. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?”
It is important to remember that we are all imperfect. We are the product of a broken world. Because we live in a world that has now been exposed to sin, we will never see perfection so long as we live.
Because perfection does not exist on this earth, those that follow the teachings of Christ must be intentional when providing grace and mercy.
Our religious convictions cannot be forced upon non-believers. This is comparable to religious socialism. Jesus asks us to use our free will to follow him. He provides the invitation for a relationship, but never condemns. It is the same with our non-Christian neighbors. We must provide the invitation to follow the way to Christ, but never force it.
This world was not made for Christians, rather the bible explains that we are designed to be strangers (1 Peter 2:11). By design, Christians are made for a higher plan by a higher power. The worries of the world do not apply to us, knowing that one day we will spend forever with a perfect God that radiates perfect love.
As a witness to Christ, we must remain both brave and joyful following the Christian faith. We must learn who we are in the eyes of God, so that we can share our strengths and testimonies with others. We must find confidence in our identities as Christians and diligently work to avoid all behaviors and actions that may mislead non-believers.
Above all, we must love our neighbors and avoid frustration and anger. In a time when relative morality is thriving, we must hold true to our convictions while showing others the love they deserve and the love our Lord expects us to give. It’s not a comfortable or easy road to be a Christian, but it is fulfilling.
Show the joy of Christ to those around you, that they may find the love and fulfillment we find every day.