“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
An expectant hush fell on the crowded courtroom. The prosecuting attorney had just called her most important witness to the stand. The witness walked tentatively to his seat beside the judge. After being sworn in he sat down. Every eye was upon him. Every ear strained to hear as the prosecutor asked the question everyone had been waiting for, “Mr. Johnson, would you please tell the jury everything you’ve read in the newspaper about the crime, along with everything you’ve heard other people say about it?”
Absurd, isn’t it? The value of a witness is that he or she bears testimony to the things they experienced themselves. The real power of a witness is in their first-hand knowledge. A witness who wasn’t actually at the scene of the crime isn’t a very credible witness!
So what does it mean to be a Christian witness? For the disciples to whom Jesus spoke just before his ascension perhaps being a witness meant to tell others about their experience of the One who died and rose again. They could tell others what they saw and heard. They had physically been with him. But how about us?
When I was in college I was told that being a Christian witness meant telling others about Jesus. You know, like a souped up version of the Apostle’s Creed. And if you were really good you could throw in a few good bible verses. And while that’s not a bad thing (there is power in the living Word!) I don’t think that’s what it means to be a Christian witness. At least I don’t think it’s the most effective way to be a Christian witness.
An effective Christian witness doesn’t tell people what to believe. They bear witness to what they’ve experienced. They tell stories…
…of unexplainable peace in turbulent times
…of forgiveness that has set them free from resentment
…of moments when their hearts have been moved to love the unlovable
…of feeling buoyed by an unreasonable hope in seemingly hopeless situations
…of experiencing the healing of deep wounds
…of sensing an abiding presence in the depths of loneliness and despair
…of experiencing Jesus!
What others do with our witness is not up to us. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Our call is to tell the stories of our experiences with the Living Christ with all the passion, humility and wonder we can muster.
What’s your story? To whom will you tell it?
Need a little inspiration to tell your story? Watch this short video.
Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN