Every Christian wants to glorify God in their words and actions. And the things we say and do have an impact on how others perceive the gospel. Traditionally, this has been called our "Christian witness," and it's essential that we spend time reflecting on it.
If you want to do your part in fulfilling the Great Commission, consider the impact your faith has on others. Here are four questions to ask about your witness.
1. Can I communicate the gospel?
You've probably heard this old quote typically attributed to St. Francis, "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." And while the gist of this quote is true, it's a little misleading. The way we live our lives should demonstrate the gospel's truth, but at its core, the gospel is a message.
That's why Paul tells the Corinthians, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ" (Romans 10:17).
People need to hear the good news. There are many ways to communicate the crux of the gospel, and sometimes it takes some effort to find a method of sharing it that works for you. But here's a simple acrostic that can help get you started:
- God created us for relationship with Him.
- Our sins separated us from God.
- Sin impacted all of creation and can't be removed with our best efforts or good deeds.
- Payment was made by Jesus on the cross.
- Eternal life is promised for everyone who trusts in Him.
- Life begins the moment we choose to follow Jesus.
2. How would I tell my faith story?
Peter tells Christians that they need to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15). This speaks to a message that's very personal. Why have you chosen to put your hope in Jesus?
Part of Christian witness is about being able to share your faith story. How did you come to believe? What kind of obstacles made it difficult for you to believe? How has your life changed because of your faith?
Each of us has a unique story about our relationship with Jesus. And it's incredibly compelling when we're able to communicate the gospel message and convey how it personally impacted us.
3. Am I setting an example in how I love others?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes a startling statement:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:43–45a).
The call to love our enemies runs contrary to our sinful inclinations. But Jesus tells us that this is what the Father is like, and if we want to be children of God, we'll love our enemies too. The Lord follows these words up with a critical point:
"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that" (Matthew 5:46–47)?
It's evident that Jesus expects His followers to hold themselves to a higher standard than the people around them. Love isn't unique to God's kingdom, but what should be unique is the commitment to love everyone. That's what draws people, and we see that in the crowds that flocked to Jesus. People who wouldn't have been comfortable in the presence of Pharisees responded to Jesus's obvious love for them.
Our love demonstrates that we belong to Jesus. And no love puts that on display like the love we show for other Christians. During His last meal with the disciples before the crucifixion, Jesus told them:
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34–35).
Love is the seal that marks us as His.
4. Is it important for me to be above reproach?
None of us is perfect, but that fact shouldn't be an excuse not to take our behavior seriously. Peter is very clear that we are to, "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:12).
This quote has two points:
- People who don't know Jesus shouldn't be able to justify their disbelief because of our immoral behavior.
- When the gospel is reinforced by good deeds, it has the opposite effect. It leads people to glorify God.
Our witness isn't simply about the words that we speak. Our testimony is also found in what our character and behavior says about God. People listen to our words and then look at our lives to see if they’re in agreement.
This means we must ask ourselves some tough questions:
- Are their secret sins in our lives that we'd be ashamed to see come to light?
- Would the people closest to you confirm your integrity?
- Have you created safeguards against sins you know you're most prone to?
- If someone accused you of some kind of wrongdoing, would the people who know you be shocked?
It's critical that what we say is backed up by what we do. This is something that Paul took seriously. "For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man" (2 Corinthians 8:21).
Having an effective witness
An effective witness doesn't happen by accident. We need to be able to communicate what Christians believe, why we believe, and then back that up with behavior that confirms our commitment to the message.
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:9–10).
If you're interested in learning more about positively impacting lives around you, check out the post How Can I Make a Difference?