Is “my witness for Christ” the paramount consideration a Christian should be concerned with when deciding how to live? Though this may sound heretical, I’m going to not only suggest that the answer is “no”, but that it’s even possible for us to make an idol out of our “witness.” Hear me out on this one…
It has become a fairly common thing–seen most recently in the reactions of some to the reactions of others about the movie “Noah”–to hear well-meaning Christians lamenting the idea that “Christians can be so (fill-in-the-blank) that a lost world writes off Christian faith altogether.” Usually, the fill-in-the-blank regards a Christian taking some “hard stand”, and the lament of these other Christians goes something like this: “the world sees Christians always being so negative…the world only sees us as being ‘against’ things…the world will be turned off to Jesus if all they see is Christians ‘bickering with each other’ over things that aren’t important.” And so on. To which I say, “you have a point–but only to a point.”
I can wholeheartedly agree that there are times in which, and issues about which, Christians bicker needlessly. I have long agreed that we can get too wrapped up in some issues that are pretty inconsequential, and/or we can act pretty uncharitably toward other believers (and often toward unbelievers) even when the issues are significant enough to take a stand. The Biblical principle, the balance-point, is “speak the truth in love”, and there’s no argument there. We should be careful not to judge the motives of others. We should give the benefit of the doubt to people. We should weigh carefully which matters require taking a hard stand, and which do not. We should extend to others the grace which Christ has extended to us. I am all about these things.
But here’s the thing: there are some issues upon which a strong stand must be taken, for truth’s sake. What I fear is that there are some who are so concerned with what other people–specifically, non-followers of Christ–will think about our beliefs that we will, in the name of our “witness”, fail to be faithful to Christ and the truth of His Word. To make this mistake is to put things of secondary importance in a position of primary importance…and I submit that that is the very definition of idolatry, hence the possibility that we make of our “witness for Christ” an idol.
By all means, let us present a clear, persuasive, compassionate, and compelling witness for Jesus, primarily by making allegiance to Jesus–and what He thinks–more important than what anyone else thinks or does. If we will do that faithfully, we need not worry about our “witness”, for if we do that faithfully, we will fail neither to speak the truth, nor to do it in love.