The Silent Witness posted by jwatson on Feb 06, 2015
While all excuses for Gospel silence are problematic, the “I witness by my life” rationale is by far the most serious. In fact, I would say that labeling it an excuse is too mild. Really it is a heresy. Let’s examine it. The person witnessing by his life focuses on the good works being done. Kind, generous and helpful, they certainly are admirable. He does them day in and week out. If people talk about him behind his back, in this case it is complimentary. To his neighbors, friends and co-workers, he is a good person, a really good person. But he never says a word about Jesus, the Gospel, sin and salvation. He is being a very powerful silent witness. The only problem is that his message as a witness is about himself, not about Jesus.
Two observations. First, he is not a good person. He is a sinner, either a saved sinner or an unsaved sinner. Second, the only way you could be able to witness by your good works is to believe that you could be saved by your good works. If you only witness by your good works, the implicit message you are proclaiming is that you are saved by your good works.
When I have raised this line of reasoning in the past, on more than one occasion people have rebutted with, “What about what Jesus said in Matthew 5: “Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works.” I pause and wait…and wait…and wait…until they break the silence with something like “Well, what about that?” My response, “I’m waiting for you to finish the verse. You forgot the words “…and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” In the “silent witness” scenario, it is the “silent witness” who gets the glory, not God. And that is a serious issue.
I will illustrate this with a real life example that has happened to both my wife and me more than once. And I suspect that we are not alone in this, it has more than likely happened to you.
What do you do when, at a store or a restaurant, you are undercharged or given too much change? Common reactions might include…it’s not a big deal…it’s my lucky day…I don’t have time to go back and take care of it. Yet, I think, if we are followers of Christ, we all know what we really should do. Sue and I have committed, not just to go back and take care of it, but to turn it into a witnessing opportunity.
When you bring to the attention of the store clerk or the restaurant server that there is a problem with your bill or the change you received, they immediately assume you were overcharged or received too little change. When they become aware that it is the opposite, they are very surprised and, at first, do not know what to say. When they finally speak up, you will hear some variation of this: “Wow, this doesn’t happen very often. It sure is nice to meet an honest person.” If you smile politely and say thank you, when you walk away you have just given a powerful witness…to yourself.
My response goes something like this. “Well, thank you. But I am not by nature an honest person. In fact, there was a time in my life when I would not have come back to do this. But now I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and He calls me to live by His standards. It is because of Jesus I am standing here doing what is right. I know you are working right now, so we really can’t talk about this. But I want to leave this booklet with you. It includes the message that changed my life. I know you will benefit from reading it. Have a great day!”
Again, I have given a powerful witness. But not to myself…but where it belongs…with the focus on Jesus!