“A witness is someone who has encountered the truth, has been possessed by it, and then attempts to pass that truth along to someone else. But the actual witnesses—the actual people, their lives—display or show the truth of what they announce and not just their words.” (Myron Penner, The End of Apologetics, Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context, (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2013,101.)
Kierkegaard says that a witness is one “who proclaims the teaching and existentially [in actual existence] expresses it.” (Soren Kierkegaard’s Journals and Papers, vol. 6, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Assisted by Gregor Malantschuk, [Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1978], 6251)
Myron Penner claims in his book, The End of Apologetics, Christian Witness in a Postmodern Context, that the “truth I proclaim…will be evident from how I live.” (Penner, 102) He argues that convincing someone that God loves them is ineffective as a debate based on logic, reason, or Biblical facts. It is, on the other hand, effective in simply telling the truth of your belief and how that belief builds you up. Truth is not something we own, it owns us. (Penner 106, 117) How living in Truth affects us —our lives, our outlook, our peace, and our behavior— is something we can joyfully share with another person. The Truth that possesses us is something we can talk about, but it is also something that can be seen in how we live. Our witness, then, is two-fold. It is our speech and our lives.
What we witness (or testify) is as important as how we testify. The Apostle Paul said he became all things to all people that he might win some. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). As Paul lived out the Gospel, he sought what was best for the other person or other people. He didn’t try to make people be like himself, instead he made himself to be like them. He put them first. This could open their hearts to hear and their eyes to see the very truth that possessed Paul, the truth that overpowered him, changed his heart, and saved his life.
In his ministry to the neighbor, Paul lived Jesus’ summary of the 10 Commandments, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” (See Matthew 22:37- 39). Paul was willing to be weak so that the strength of God could be seen. God’s power was witnessed to by Paul when he became vulnerable by putting his neighbor first. This is a way of living—living out the Gospel—and being a witness to the Truth, Jesus Christ. This Gospel-living happens not only with our voices but with our lives.
Paul says in Galatians 3:26-28, “…for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Our differences, though they remain, are much less important than our ‘oneness’ in Christ.
Once in Christ we are all equally joint heirs with Christ. Those outside of the body, however, deserve respect and consideration for their own sake and salvation. We share what God has already done for us, and declare that He loves our neighbor and desires their well-being and blessings too. In lifting up the other, we humble ourselves, and God’s might and love become visible through the power of the Holy Spirit, even to the unbeliever. This happens when we treat the unbeliever as a beloved child of God for the sake of Christ to win our neighbor. After all, you too are a beloved child of God for the sake Christ, who humbled himself for you.