Tuesday, October 10, 2017

An Ineffective Witness

As we talk about the witness of Esther, whose story never once mentions God by name, and the witness many Christians today are trying to live, without any overt mention of God by name, there are some fundamental differences. But before we look at what worked so well for Esther, we have to be honest about what's not working for us. 

And let's be clear - our "silent" witness isn't working.

I'm not even talking about hypocrisy here. I'm not talking about how often we get caught doing things that are less than what Jesus would have us do or even the times when we get caught doing the things that Jesus would never have us do. I'm not talking about our inconsistencies or our sinfulness. I'm talking only about our honest, earnest effort to live "good" lives that proclaim Christ without speaking Him. 

It just doesn't work.

Growing up outside of the church (and firmly outside of it), I didn't know who around me was a Christian and who wasn't. I knew some folks who had Bibles on their coffee tables and crosses on their necks, but it never occurred to me that there was anything fundamentally different about them. They just had different artifacts in their houses than I did; none of these things ever pointed me to God.

I knew some folks who were always busy on Sunday mornings, neighborhood kids who couldn't play kickball on Sunday mornings. Doors I would knock on that wouldn't be answered. But again, I never figured there was anything much different about these folks. They were just busy on Sundays. It never pointed me to God. 

I have known good folks all my life. I have known folks who didn't smoke, chew, or kiss girls who do. I have known some who didn't dance, more than a few who didn't curse, and a good measure who would give you the shirt off their backs. But I didn't know they were really any different from me; I didn't know there was a God behind all of this.

I knew some folks who sang Amazing Grace, but never spoke of it, and I just thought they had some weird taste in music. I knew some who lived with blessed assurance, but I wasn't quite sure what they were assured of. They often seemed just as uncertain as I was. None of this ever got me any closer to knowing God. 

Maybe you're reading this, and you're one of those who thinks, "Well, isn't that the point?" There's been a real push in modern Christianity to "prove" that we Christians are just like everyone else. We all put our pants on one leg at a time, right? That's what we want the world to know about us - that we're not fundamentally different than they are. 


Except that when we live this way, with our silent kind of witness, we're neglecting also tell the world that there is a God who is dramatically different than all they've ever known. We hope, kind of, that they'll catch on without our mentioning it, but I'm telling you - from the other side, from the unbeliever's side, from the unchurched side - they won't. How could they? If we spend our whole lives trying to convince others that we're not that different from them, how are they ever supposed to recognize that we have a God who is? 

When I got older and finally came to know this God, through a very small number who dared to speak about Him, by the way, I was shocked at how many persons I had known growing up who were Christians without ever saying it. I was astonished at the number of persons who had passed through my life without telling me about God, just sort of hoping that I might "get it." I never would have on my own. I say that with 100% certainty - even though I was surrounded by good, Christian persons, I never would have figured out that there was a God behind all of it if none of them had ever dared introduce the idea. 

And what's more - when I started to see how many good, Christian persons were around me, I started to think that maybe all of the good persons around me were Christians. I started to view everyone through this lens and thought maybe they were all quietly leading this sort of life, and I wrapped them into my understanding of Christianity. It was not until several years later that I discovered that not all of them were Christians. Some were actually Buddhists. Some were New Age followers. Some were just regular, run-of-the-mill good people. But here I was, thinking that they were all teaching me about the same God. 

All because the ones who really knew Him wouldn't dare speak Him. 

Our silent witness just doesn't work. This world is not going to figure out anything about our God if we don't speak His name in our story. They're not going to be able to distinguish what's Christian from what's worldly or even from what's just good. They're not going to know that Jesus loves them or that the Cross matters or that God is preparing a place for them. They're not going to figure it out. 

We have to tell them. We have to make it clear. We have to live lives that do more than silently witness; we have to live lives that boldly speak. 

Like Esther's.

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