Christ has called us to be his witnesses. So … how believable is our testimony? And by OUR, I mean OUR. I don’t mean my testimony, or your testimony. Nor do I necessarily mean a verbal testimony. I mean the collective testimony (both verbal, and as observable through the kinds of lives WE lead) of those who name Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. How believable is THAT testimony?
Have WE, the Church as a whole, lived up to OUR calling? Have WE faithfully represented Christ to the world? Or have WE, by OUR failure to live as Christ would have us live, somehow diminished the powerful story of Christ, of his redemptive work on our behalf, and of his ever-increasing government (Isaiah 9:7)?
I am reminded of a passage of Scripture my pastor, Jeff Ling, recently shared from the pulpit.
“By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” 1 John 4:17 (ESV)
You are reading the third in a series of three blog posts – a series I began on Monday. The progression looks like this:
Today we will conclude with the third element in this triad of things that need to happen to help heal the Church so the Church can play her role in healing the nation. We will look at Rehabilitation. If you have not read the other two, you might want to go back and look at them.
Again, I begin with a short story:
“Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me, because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist him.” (Job 29:11-12 NIV)
Rehabilitate the Witness
A defense attorney, his defense team, and their client sat around a conference table in a small side room at the county courthouse. The defendant shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Legal documents littered the table. The attorney collected his thoughts, shook his head in frustration, took a deep breath, and spoke.
“Things are not going well. I wish we’d done a more thorough job interviewing your brother before we put him on the stand. The prosecution did a lot of damage to his testimony during cross examination. Blew some holes in it I’d say. I’m not sure the jury believes his story. Why didn’t you tell us about his psychological problems?”
The client hung his head. “I didn’t know he’d been to three different psychiatrists.”
The attorney sighed and sat back in his chair. “Unfortunately at this point, he’s all we’ve got. We have no choice but to put him back on the stand and try to rehabilitate his testimony.”
Rehabilitation is an interesting word. We think of it most often with regard to a person who has been injured and is working hard to regain the use of an arm or a leg or learning how to speak again. We also use the word to identify the process of rebuilding the inner life of a convicted criminal so as to render him useful to society. Walking, speaking, being useful in society – all reflect the state of man as God designed him to be. A person crippled by injury or disease, an individual found guilty of a crime – neither reflect God’s original intent for the human race.
But rehabilitate the Church? Is this an appropriate use of the word? A more accurate rendering is “rehabilitate the testimony (or witness) of the Church.”
What is God’s original intent for the Church? Obviously such a question cannot be fully addressed here. But briefly, Christ created his Church to embody his fullness in the earth – to reveal his glory, to testify of his goodness and his many attributes.
Jesus calls us the “salt of the earth.” Part of the Church’s role in revealing God’s glory is to help preserve the world against the ravages of sin. But what happens when the Church fails in its mission? Is the world deprived of a more accurate picture of God? When the Church fails to show the way, don’t others – false prophets or witnesses – step into the vacuum and offer alternative answers to the world’s problems?
What happened when the white, evangelical Church failed to come the aid of their black brothers and sisters fighting for freedom in the 1950’s and 60’s? (See Reconciliation). And how are we, the Church in America, perceived by the unredeemed in our own land today? Are we respected? Are our ideas accepted? Is our counsel followed?
Every nation throughout history has been guided by a philosophy. Every nation takes counsel from some source (Psalms 2:2). At one time in our history we were guided by the Judeo-Christian ethic. But through the years, as the Church weakened, so did our testimony (or witness) in the land. Today, if we can work to repair the damage done by generations of racism and other failures in the Church, our testimony can be rehabilitated. And we will once again be able to return to our historical role as the nation’s counselor.
Wow! The Church as the nation’s counselor! What a concept. And you know, there was a time in our nation’s history, when the Church was, essentially, the nation’s counselor. Is it conceivable that we could ever fill that role again?
As believers, should we not strive to encourage the destruction of the barriers between believers of different denominations and colors? As we pro-actively build affirming relationships across racial and denominational lines, we help to rehabilitate the testimony (the witness) of the Church in the land.
“… and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8 NIV)
Up next … the first of four character traits for the reconciler … HUMILITY. … Wait. There’s more …………..
And keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming short series on the film, THE HUNGER GAMES. I saw it. I liked it. I was deeply impacted by the story and by the ideas presented in the film.
My wife asked me to sum up the theme in a few short words. I said, “It portrayed what happens when godless people gain power, and control all the money.” Yeah … that’s what I got out of it, and it was portrayed very well, I thought. It is a fictional look into a dark future that could potentially become a very real future for our land, for the generations who follow ours, should we not reign in the beast that is Washington.