Last summer I picked up a t-shirt with one enigmatic word printed across the chest: “WITNESS”. I found it in a consignment shop along with t-shirts advertising beer, sports teams and summer camps. I thought, “I want to be a “witness” – so I picked it up and still wear it every now and then. I found out a few weeks later the original shirt was worn by Cleveland Cavalier fans that were present at the first game LaBron James played in Cleveland. It turns out they WERE witnesses to a special event – and this year’s winning streak proves it. LaBron is something special, and I’m sure those who were there now wear their “WITNESS” tshirts with pride.
Being a witness – which involves not only experiencing something first-hand but telling others about it, is important in a lot of areas, as well. For instance, no one respects or believes a celebrity who promotes a product he or she has never used. Likewise, no one believes a Christian who claims to be a witness for Christ – but whose life would seem to indicate they’ve never met the man.
Just as the first disciples were witnesses to the goodness and power of Christ, there is still need for authentic witnesses in the world today. And the qualifications are still pretty much the same. First of all, we need to be people f
honesty and integrity. If no one can trust anything else we say why should they believe us when we talk about God? Secondly, we need to cultivate a servant heart. We need to love and forgive others as Jesus has loved and forgiven us.
To paraphrase the apostle Paul, “we may be the greatest preachers and pray-ers in the whole world, but without love, we are nothing.” Finally, and most importantly, we must have a first-hand relationship with Jesus Christ.
Many of us have felt the power the Risen Christ working in our lives — renewing and transforming us. It is from this base of experience God calls us to live. We are to live as if everything we do and say is a witness to Jesus Christ – because it is. As someone once said, “you are the only Bible some people will ever read.” In other words, if you are a Christian, and people know it, they will watch you to find out what Christ is like – and what the church is all about.
That may seem like a big responsibility – and it is! But fortunately, we are not alone in this witness. Jesus knew his disciples, even with their enthusiasm and good intentions, were still only ordinary human beings. He knew that before they could accomplish the task set before them they would need help from God. Immediately following Easter, the disciples were like fugitives, frightened and cowering behind locked doors. But with the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they became the very people who witnessed to their faith boldly and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
Like the first disciples, we are also called to be witnesses. Let us then live with courage and faith, embracing truth, expressing love, and trusting the Spirit to guide and empower us in our work. And always remember, you could very well be called up to be the star witness.