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Witnesses & Witnessing

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Today I spent some time thinking about being a witness for God. Witness has a couple of meanings, and both of them are applicable to the Christian life. The first meaning is “One who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced: a witness to the accident.” According to this definition, a witness is one who is able to give a firsthand account of something that person has experienced. As believers we are all able to bear witness to how Christ has worked in our lives. The second meaning is “One who is called on to testify before a court.” This sense is a little bit different in that it speaks of those who are called to testify. Believers are called to testify, not before a court, but before the entire world what God has done for us. We are to be witnesses to the Lord by going to the world to testify what He has done, and part of this will include sharing what we have seen, heard and experienced.

In recent months there have been several court cases that have received plenty of media attention – celebrities such as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson have found serious charges leveled against them and Scott Peterson attained celebrity status after murdering his wife. One thing I have noticed in reading about these cases is the value of a good witness – not just any witness will do. A good witness is of much greater value. So what makes a good witness?

In my view, and I admit that with so limited a knowledge of law, it may be quite a limited view, I have seen that a good witness needs to have at least two elements:

  • A consistent story – A good witness is one whose story is consistent. He does not give a testimony and then later change or retract part of it. Nothing is more damaging for a case than when a witness changes his story or when his story falls apart under critical examination.
  • A consistent life – While it may seem unfair, the witness’ life and lifestyle are often called into question. When people examine the life of a witness they want to see a consistent life. A person with a track record of offenses and lawsuits immediately loses credibility.

Having thought about this I was forced to ask myself what kind of witness I am for the Lord. When I am called upon to bear witness for what the Lord has done in my life, do I have a consistent story? Am I able to explain how God has worked in and through me and can I provide an able defense for my faith? And do I live a consistent life – a life that, when it falls under closer examination, will show that I have credibility and that I live what I claim to believe?

Another observation I have made about witnesses is that they will often face brutally critical examination as the defense seeks to discredit them. It seems the Kobe Bryant case was dropped after the examination of the principle witness – the accuser – showed that she had very little credibility. The defense team did everything they could to dig up dirt on the woman and to portray her in the most negative light possible.

Believers live under this close scrutiny. When we claim to be children of God we immediately invite others to pay close attention to our lives and to determine for themselves if we are merely “talking the talk” without “walking the walk.” Most Christians can think of shameful times in their lives when an unbeliever has questioned them about some habits or practices that clash with their claim to be Christians. Too often we have been discredited by a close examination of our lives and have been left to deal with shame and remorse.

To be honest, I began to ponder the concept of witness when I thought about what many Christian bloggers and authors write about. It is not unusual to read about R-rated movies in Christian books and to have Christian bloggers write about TV shows that clearly have some inappropriate content. I have seen some of these movies and may watch some of the shows, yet do not write about them on this site. Why? I don’t do it because I feel it discredits me as a witness as it does not allow me to hold to a consistent story. Somehow I have allowed myself to believe this was appropriate.

Having examined what a witness is, I realize I have been hypocritical, for, as we just saw, an effective witness must also have a consistent life. If I want to be a good witness I need to avoid not only writing about such things, but also avoid exposing myself to them. Perhaps if I am watching those movies and shows I should just write about them rather than hide them away and pretend I am above them. It is difficult being a good witness and it is easy to become pharisaical about it. Yet God calls us to complete purity – partial purity still involves some level of impurity that discredits our witness.

God make me pure, so I can be the most effective witness for You!

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