I’ve been reading Darrell Guder’s 1985 book Be My Witnesses, and it’s helping me grow in my understanding of what it means to be a witness of Jesus.  This relates to my earlier post where I was questioning how that witness might look in a North American context. I’ve marked more quotable quotes than I could possibly reproduce here, but here’s a section I that I think sums up pretty well a lot of what Guder is saying.

“Much that is witness, and that bears the authority of the Holy Spirit working through it, will not necessarily become verbal.  The day-to-day example of that witness lived out by obedient Christians in all the spheres of life is perhaps the  most powerful and most persuasive form of witness.  Ethics understood as witness will point to the lordship of Christ in many situations in which speech is not possible … .  [The “saying”] of the Good News must emerge out of being and doing the witness.  In other words, being and  doing the witness provide the context and also the validation for  what we say. ….

To stop with being and doing, which is the tendency of many Christian movements today who have problems with ‘evangelism,’ is to reduce drastically the biblical mandate and the very nature of the Good News.  We are seeking to define the saying of the witness in such a way that it will not be isolated from the total scope of witness. But we must insist that our definitions are incomplete, and our concept of the church is less than biblical, if we do not focus the task of witness ultimately on the verbal communication of this Good News.  The witnesses (martyroi), as the witnessing community, must address the witness (martyria) to the world.” (pp. 133-134)

I think this is what Sandi was saying in her comment – that we need to be the kind of people and serve in a way that our verbal witness can be heard.  And Greg was right in saying that our witness must be heard as Good News.  In my encounter at the pool, I rushed headlong to an application that should come at a much deeper point in a relationship.  There just wasn’t that opportunity.  Whether I was speaking without thinking or following the leading of the Holy Spirit in that specific situation, I don’t know.  Somehow we have to find a balance between coming across as close-minded bigots and presenting Jesus as just one item on the religious menu that can be chosen or passed over.  Maybe that balance won’t be so hard to find when we learn to genuinely love those to whom we bear witness, and to be guided by the Holy Spirit in being, doing, and saying the witness.

 

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