There are a couple of words conspicuously missing from the Gospel accounts of Jesus's life. Those words are "I" and "we."
Each of the accounts is written either by a disciple himself or by someone to whom the disciple was telling his experiences, and yet, not once do any of the disciples shift their focus from "He" to "we." Not once. Not even when Peter, for example, tells his story to Mark does Mark record a single "we," as though Peter might recount his own presence with the Teacher in retelling the tale.
It's remarkable, really. You would think that at some point, these guys who had spent three years of their lives traveling and touring with Jesus would at some point slip a "we" in there or would be tempted at one point or another to talk about their own role in the story or their own experience of it with an "I." But they don't.
They are, through and through, witnesses to the work and wonder of Jesus, and when they tell His story, it's all about Him.
As it should be.
This is one reason, I think, that our witness today is far less powerful than it was in the early church, than the Gospel accounts of a history long-passed. It's because when we talk about Jesus? we talk most often about a "we" and also very frequently about an "I." We have come to own our faith in such a way that when we talk about it? it's about us. As though us believing is the most important part of the story.
And it's not just about our individual faith. We also use "I" and "we" and "us" when we're talking about our churches in the context of our faith. We're living witnesses to the work of our church - we have a program for that, we started a small group for that, we believe that, we make a priority of that.
Thus, we have come to a point in our faith history where when others are dying of thirst for Living Water and aching to hear the truth about anything, we're offering them something far less - witnesses to ourselves.
Here's how we do it. And brother, let me tell you - it makes all the difference.
We're not witnesses to Jesus any more. We're not talking about what He's done. We're not talking about what He's doing. We're not talking about what He means or how the people are responding to Him or the truth about who He is. We're not telling stories about the work and wonder of our Lord, not talking about His love for sinners or His command of truth or even His Cross.
We're talking about how we read our Bibles every morning, how we worship on Sundays, how we fellowship on Tuesdays, how we volunteer on Saturdays, how we wear the T-shirts and sport the bumper stickers and pour coffee in our foyers with fellow attenders. We're talking about how we pray when times are hard without a single mention of the God who hears us and responds to those prayers. We're talking about how we sing hymns from the depths of our hearts without ever talking about how our hearts know the words. We're talking about amazing grace as those who have received it and leaving out entirely the One who gives it.
We have become witnesses to a human faith, not a holy presence.
There is, in our witness, a great danger, and we are seeing it play out before our very eyes. And there is one simple, heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, soul-crushing reason why this has become our "best" witness today. We'll talk about both in the days to come.