Learn What it Means to be a Witness | 08
AUTHOR: Holy Scripture
The discipline of being a witness is better learned through observation and practice. The men and women of the Bible serve as our mentors and guides as we learn to be effective witnesses.
Read or listen to Mark 5:1-20.
They came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gerasenes. As soon as he got out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met him. He lived in the tombs, and no one was able to restrain him anymore—not even with a chain—because he often had been bound with shackles and chains, but had torn the chains apart and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and knelt down before him. And he cried out with a loud voice, “What do you have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you before God, don’t torment me!” For he had told him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
“What is your name?” he asked him.
“My name is Legion,” he answered him, “because we are many.” And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the region.
A large herd of pigs was there, feeding on the hillside. The demons begged him, “Send us to the pigs, so that we may enter them.” So he gave them permission, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned there.
The men who tended them ran off and reported it in the town and the countryside, and people went to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the man who had been demon-possessed, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and told about the pigs. Then they began to beg him to leave their region.
As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged him earnestly that he might remain with him. Jesus did not let him but told him, “Go home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” So he went out and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and they were all amazed.
What assignment did Jesus give to the man who had been demon-possessed?
The written Scripture is CSB, however, the audio Scripture is ESV.
Read the blog below. What does it teach about being a witness?
By Kelly Kruse
Each of us has a faith story, and it’s often our most powerful witness. The demon-possessed man in Mark 5 has quite the origin story. Even chains couldn’t hold back the strength of the powers that possessed him, and he spent his waking life in miserable loneliness with only the dead for company. His self-harm was a visible manifestation of the battle in his soul. After casting out his demons and saving the man, Jesus asked him to go and tell everyone the story, and Mark says that people were amazed to hear it. Our stories, and the way that Jesus meets us in them, are a powerful witness.
FIVE GENERATIONS OF FAITH
Church was a formative place for me as a child. My family of origin has attended the same mainline Protestant church for five generations. Just inside the front door, there is an elaborate drawing of the cemetery adjacent to the church that shows the placement of graves along with the names and dates of the ancestors of the people who gather to worship there. As a child, I regularly searched the sea of names inside little black boxes, looking for my great-grandparents and trying to understand my place in the story of my family’s faith.
FAILURE TO WITNESS: DRAWING LINES INSTEAD OF SHARING STORIES
When I was seventeen, I was close friends with a family that had recently joined a new church. Eventually, my friends’ mom asked me to come to their house so we could have a serious conversation. She explained that I was a nonbeliever and that she had to be careful about who her children were friends with.
I asked her how I could be considered a nonbeliever, since I attended church every Sunday. I loved the liturgy and hymns and knew Bible stories well. She went on to quiz me about my theological beliefs using complex scenarios about the beliefs of hypothetical individuals. She wanted me to answer if they were going to heaven or hell, and I told her I had no idea what their hearts held. It was not the answer she was hoping to hear. My friends had embraced the delinations of their new theology, too, and though we remained friends, they made it clear that I was a nonbeliever.
I learned later that it isn’t uncommon for people in the church to draw such lines, dividing complex humans and our myriad experiences into the categories of “us” and “them.” Lines can make us feel safe, especially if we’re convinced we’re on the right side.
I think about how Jesus didn’t ask the formerly demon-possessed man in Mark 5 to go and teach people that their theology is wrong. Instead, he asked him to share what God had done for him. It’s good to be clear about what you believe and why, and there is a time and a place when it is important to discuss it. However, if we lead our witness with doctrine or theology first, we miss out on the power of our stories and those of the precious souls to whom we are witnessing.
I met my friend Laura in our first year of graduate school at Indiana University. She was quick to let me know that the most important thing about her was her faith, telling me casually in one of our first conversations that she was a born again Christian. I instantly wondered if she would want to be my friend. This time, I was the one drawing the invisible lines between us. She was one of those Jesus folks and I was not that kind of believer.
At that point in my life, I was not attending church. I still believed in God, but I wasn’t so sure about all of the doubts and questions that had arisen when my worldview was challenged in college. My childhood faith had been like a house of cards: only one card needed to be pulled out to bring the whole thing down.
Laura’s identity as a Christian never seemed to be focused on what she believed, but who she believed in. She was excited about her faith and loved debating hard questions, but more than anything, she loved people. I was curious about Laura’s faith, but didn’t even know where to start when it came to sharing all of my own doubts and fears.
THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP
Fortunately, Laura decided to be my friend without reservation, accepting me right where I was. She didn’t immediately confront my beliefs. She even apologized to me in moments when she thought I might have felt like she was judging me because she had strong convictions that opposed mine, sharing that she knew she had flaws and struggles of her own. She didn’t apologize for her beliefs, but she did care about how I felt.
It was clear that our friendship didn’t hinge on any kind of right answer to theological questions, so in that freedom I began to ask about her faith. She loaned books to me, shared sermons for my husband and me to listen to, and best of all, we enjoyed wide-ranging, challenging conversations on theology and Scripture.
THE FRUIT OF FRIENDSHIP
A couple of years later, something in me had changed. I confessed to Laura that I finally understood what people meant when they said they were in love with Jesus. He was the first thing I thought of when I got up in the morning and the last thing I thought of when I went to bed at night. We wept together at what Jesus had done in my heart.
Laura once told me that she thought I was a tough case when we started our theology discussions. I had gone beyond drawing lines and erected stone barriers around my heart to keep Jesus and his people away. But God used Laura to show me that he loved me despite my hard heartedness, and in her face, I saw his image.
She pointed me to Jesus, and when I turned and saw him, I learned who I was and who I had always been. I found what I had searched for in the map of my childhood church cemetery—my place in a faith story that spans generations. I saw myself as if for the first time, in all the painful reality of my sin and brokenness and with a hope for a new life that I had never imagined.
In the fall of 2013, Laura baptized me. My baptism was an affirmation of the ways I had been pursued by those who love me the most. First, my parents showed remarkable faithfulness, like the generations before them, to bring me to church every Sunday. When I finally came to know Christ, the Scripture I had memorized in the liturgy was like buried treasure in my soul. My baptism affirmed the deep friendship Laura lavished on me, when she could have been spending those hours with fellow believers.
Jesus never gave up on me. In my deepest and darkest places—the ones that are filled with chaos and death where no one else will come near. He came after me and continues to do so to this day. And I will not stop telling the story of what he has done.
Lord, grant me creative ways to tell others how much you have done for me and how you had, and continue to have, mercy on me.
Week 8 of 8 Witness
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