You are my witnesses.
We are not witnesses because we saw God in the sunlight that filtered through the tree branches, or because we heard the most beautiful harmony of voices or because we read words from ancient scripture. We are witnesses because of the God spark that was fanned into flame when we experienced these moments. We are witnesses because these holy moments stirred our souls so much that it convicted us to do something, to be the person we were called to be, to share something worth sharing.
As of lately, I have been witness to a whole lot of spiritual abuse committed by Christians. These Christians feel convicted, passionate and called to “save” the lost in ways that can only be called abuse. When we hear about Christians on the news, it usually isn’t about the good they are doing but because of the radical methods of witnessing. It is loud, it is discouraging and it is truly heart breaking. It is at times hard for me to associate myself as a Christian when I know of the hateful evangelical ministries being carried out on a daily basis. There are days when I feel like these types of Christians are too loud, too powerful and that they might just ruin any chance for the ones of us who only want to join in community with others and love. However, there have been more days as of late that hope has won out in my heart. The more I challenge the hate and nervously lift up the vail, the more voices join with me. The more I ask “Is this really what Jesus desired?” the more I hear of others who desire his mission- to love all, accept all and join in community with them.
Jesus has become more and more supernatural as I have grown up. For some reason, perhaps because of our media driven culture, Jesus’ divinity has taken precedence over his humanness. I don’t know about you but the Jesus I resonate with is the very human one. The Jesus that got angry with injustice, the Jesus that wept of the death of a friend, the Jesus that was harassed by religious leaders, the Jesus who got weary and had to be alone to gather his wits, the Jesus who took time to talk to the lowly woman, to the insignificant children, to the diseased, to the hard to love, and to the man hanging beside him on the cross. I can relate to that Jesus. I can be challenged by that Jesus.
In Matthew 24 we truly see his humanness in the most unlikely of events:
36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish,43and he took it and ate in their presence.
It wasn’t a ghost, a supernatural being. It was a man who had real wounds, flesh broken and apparently a hungry appetite. Broiled Fish. Eating is a human experience we can all relate to, and I love that the author included this little tidbit of information. The fact that he asked if there was anything to eat and picked up a piece of broiled fish first made me laugh but called my attention to the nature of Jesus. He was real. He was broken. He was hungry. I know that Jesus.
Later into the passage it says:
“45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.”
Now whether you actually believe that he physically rose from the dead (because there is much debate about this in theological and exegetical studies) we can all find common ground in that Jesus might not physically exist anymore but he is resurrected and alive in each one of us when we stand up for the marginalized, or when we celebrate the life of another or when we do the harder right over the easier wrong. Jesus is real and it is made evident when we weep over the loss of a friend, when we get angry at injustice, when we take time to heal the heart of a broken hearted family member, when we feel weary of living out our calling and have to walk away and be alone for a while, when we get criticized in how we minister to others, when our flesh and bones are broken and wounded. This is when we fulfill Jesus’ calling of being witnesses. We don’t need smoke and mirrors or a supernatural message to reach out to those around us. All we need is the courage to act out real love in real situations to real people.
Have you ever been a victim of extreme evangelism? (Street corner, Billboards, Bumper Stickers, Radio, Emails, Flyers etc.) If so, what type of emotions did you experience?
What does it mean to be called to witness?
In what ways do you feel called to witness?
Has your ways of witnessing evolved and changed throughout your journey?