Your Christian witness

The Word of God Speaks by Fr. Dana Jackson

Colossians 3:1-3

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Do you wear a cross or crucifix around your neck? Or do you wear t-shirts with Scriptures or depictions of Jesus printed on them? In my younger days we put Christian stickers on the rear bumpers or windows of our cars. Do you do anything that lets the world know that you are a follower of Christ? If so, then when non-believers look at you they assume they are seeing Jesus.

I am a priest. I wear my cross whenever I go out in public, and it causes me to consider what sort of witness I am giving through my normal words and actions. You and I are the hands and feet and ears and voice of Jesus Christ, and for some we may be the first part of His Body they have ever seen.

But it’s not just about strangers. What about your parish, your extended family, even your children? Consider the following:

Suppose your child is caught up in some wrong, some sin. Do you want them to come to you for help, or do you want them to hide it from you? Would you prefer not having to deal with it? Would you rather wait until a policeman takes them to jail, an ambulance takes them to the hospital, or a hearse takes them to the grave?

If you said you want them to come to you, hear me carefully: their willingness to come to you depends completely upon how they expect you to respond to them: not upon how you will respond, but how they think you will respond. And upon what do they base their expectation? On how you have responded in the past.

Does this thought make you uncomfortable?

If your child were faced with such a situation right now … would they expect an angry, controlling response that is more concerned with how their actions affect your image or reputation than with the health of their spirit and the salvation of their soul? Or would they expect the response of Jesus to the woman caught in the very act of adultery, described in John 8:2-11? Are you seeking the things on earth, or the things above? Your own good, or their good?

Jesus didn’t speak judgment to the woman; He spoke justice to her accusers. “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And then He waited. And waited. “When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’

I believe this shows the proper meaning of the Scripture, “Do not judge” (Luke 6:37, during the sermon on the mount). Jesus did discern; He did identify sin; He did not deny its consequences; He did not give her free license, saying “go and continue sinning, it’s all good, I’ve got you covered”. Jesus responded in compassion and in love … and immediately turned to His disciples and the other people there. “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.'”

Jesus did not condemn, but He did recognize sin. He did not need to threaten her; she knew she had done wrong. He made her choice clear, and instructed her as to the right choice.

If we respond to our children – or anyone – with the compassion and love of Jesus, we bring the light of Christ into their situation, not the darkness of death and condemnation. Imagine if we treated people in our churches caught up in sin in this way?

Love and compassion are needed. God is bringing to you and me, and to His Church, people who are hurting, who are injured; whose hearts have been broken by people who failed them. Will they come for ministry because they expect to receive the love of Jesus? Or will they keep quiet and suffer in silence – or not come at all – because they expect to be shamed and condemned?

What sort of Jesus do they see in you?

Word of God: speak!

Non nobis Domine+

© 2020


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