I deeply desire to be able to name myself categorically as follow Jesus. That’s half the appeal of participating in a monastic, activist, or non-profit social justice community. If I’m honest, that’s half the appeal of leading a church.
How do we know we follow Jesus? How do we sort out in our day-to-day, nine-to-five lives if we are somehow participating in messianic mission?
Love can take many forms. Redemption may often blend into the background.
A younger version of myself would identify witness as unapologetic apologetics and exploiting every opportunity to confront people with the gospel. But I believe this way of witnessing turns primarily on a theoretical/intellectual mode of understanding “gospel”--a way foreign to Jesus’ own proclamation.
Example: I work in a pharmacy for a day job. In between filling prescriptions and cashing out customers, a coworker mentions that she plans to come again to church, the same church I go to, incidentally. A fellow Christian who also works there immediately takes this opportunity to interrogate the rest of our fellow employees about their church attendance habits. They become defensive, explaining that they go occasionally, when they can, whey they’re not too tired, etc.
My younger self would have joined in the interrogation, hoping for a chance to score an invitation to join me on Sunday morning. But I’m not entirely sure that this is an incredibly faithful way to imagine witness.
I don’t think Jesus pressured people into attending weekly synagogue all too often.
But if this isn’t what witness looks like outside the monastery or the rescue mission, what might it look like?
Jesus meets people where they’re at. The woman at the well, Nicodemus, the wedding at Cana, John’s disciples at the Jordan. He goest to them, asks them questions, hears their stories, and then shares his life--the same life I want to share. It’s a patient process.
Will there ever be confrontation? Perhaps; probably, even. But like the Samaritan woman, confrontation with the truth of the Jesus story comes only after stories and needs have been heard, only after we really know one another.
But this is far from a clean-cut business. It seems difficulty to define. Are we living as witness? Or are we simply living as nice people? Where is Jesus in our friendships? Where is Jesus back in the pharmacy? It’s hard to say.