Thursday, October 16, 2014

Can I Get a Witness?

The question was posed: “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict?”

The silence in the youth room was near deafening. And it wasn’t just the teens that were visibly uncomfortable. What started for me as a slightly less than critical self-assessment of faith in practice, turned into serious examination of my relationship with God and the Four Last Things.

Have I loved God with my whole heart and soul? How have I (or have I?) introduced my neighbor to the love of Christ? As I grappled with these questions – looking over my life and the prospect of an eternity with or without God – I felt more than a little unsure that the evidence to convict me indeed existed …

Who would testify on my behalf? Who would be my witness?

Sacred Scripture tells us that the testimony of two or three reliable witnesses is required as evidence to convict (Deut 19:15; Mt 18:16). As if to underscore the point, Jesus always seemed to keep His faithful disciples – Peter, James, and John – close by when He wished to reveal something extraordinary about Himself. Credible witnesses perfect and help serve justice.

But history teaches us that witnessing can be hazardous to your health, too. There was no Witness Protection Program for the prophets in the Old Testament, for Lazarus or John the Baptist. Jesus said that the very reason He was born and came into the world was to testify to the truth. But that testimony got Him abandoned, rejected, humiliated, convicted, and ultimately, crucified. Countless Christian martyrs from the first century onward shared the same fate. Since His disciples are held to the standard He set, they may passively see, hear, and believe, but then must actively witness – without compromise – to what they came to know by faith.