The Vocation of Witness
Elton Trueblood, in his wonderful The Company of the Committed, lays out a strong case for the meaning, importance and power of the act of of bearing-witness to Jesus. This is not soap-box preaching. He's referring to filled-up individuals using every means, angle and opportunity to give glory to the truth of who Jesus is. Here are, without comment, some of his most compelling thoughts from that chapter:
“The true inwardness of the Church is reflected, not in the Temple, which Christ said could be destroyed without loss, and not in the synagogue, which He seems to have abandoned with deliberate decision, but in the sending out of the Seventy. The Church is intended as a concrete answer to the prayer that laborers be sent forth to the harvest. The Company of Jesus is not people streaming to a shrine; and it is not people making up an audience for a speaker; it is laborers engaged in the harvesting task of reaching their perplexed and seeking brethren with something so vital that, if it is received, it will change their lives.” 45
“If a man is being tried for murder and I happen to possess, in my little stream of experience, the evidence that the accused man was actually at a different spot at the time of his alleged murderous act, I am not free to withhold it. If I do withhold it I am myself a murderer, for I destroy an innocent man by my silence. The failure to witness in such a situation is a highly immoral act. Thus it is clearly that we do not avoid the moral ambiguities of testimony by mere refusal to testify.” 48,49
“It is not that the Church is formed first and then, subsequently, is expected to witness. Rather, the original fellowship is the fellowship of witness; this is what it is formed to accomplish. ‘Conversion,’ says [Gabriel] Marcel in a memorable sentence, ‘is the act by which man is called to be a witness.’ The call to witness is a call which men can answer affirmatively or negatively, but one who answers it negatively, however kind and pious he may be, is not in the Company of Jesus.” 49
“We make a witness by telling not who we are but whose we are. Though it would be ridiculous for me to try to make a witness by telling of my own righteousness, which, after all, does not exist, it is not at all ridiculous for me to confess, with candor, to Whom I am committed. This is why the Vocation of Witness belongs necessarily to the Company of the Committed, rather than to the company of the good or the wise or the prudent.” 54
“The value of the individual’s story of Christ’s healing power lies largely in the undeniable fact that each human life stands at a unique point in the total web of human experience, and, as a consequence, each one has an approach to others which is not identical with the opportunity of any other human being. If I do not open the door for another, it may never be opened, for it is possible that I may be the only one who holds this particular key. The worker on the production line may have an entree to the life of his fellow worker on the line which can never be matched by any pastor or teacher or professional evangelist. The responsibility of each individual Christian is to do that which no other person can do as well as he can.” 55,56
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