Can we do two things at once?

March 24, 2017 at 6:00 AM

Muslim cultures, like this one in Dahra, Senegal, offer plenty of opportunities to both be a witness of Jesus, but also be active in witnessing.

Can we do two things at once?

By Dr. Greg Kuiper

I was privileged to gather recently with nearly 400 Christian healthcare professionals in Egypt. They came from at least seven northern Africa countries to discuss how they could best share their faith in their workplaces which are largely hostile to the Christian message.

In each of these Muslim dominated cultures, it is dangerous to publicly declare one’s allegiance to Jesus. But they didn’t gather to commiserate and feel sorry for themselves and their difficult circumstances. They were not interested in complaining about how unfair they were being treated.

Instead, they gathered to encourage one another and become better equipped to share the Good News which all of us as brothers and sisters share in Jesus Christ, regardless of citizenship or ethnicity.

One of the themes that was emphasized in these meetings is our calling to the two-fold task of what it means to witness. We were challenged to recognize that the word ‘witness’ functions as both a noun and a verb. For us to be competent witnesses we were instructed that we not only need to “be” but we also need to “do.”

When our lives are lived in obedience to Christ, we reflect our love for Jesus. In this sense, we are functioning as the ‘noun’ form of being a witness.

This is perhaps the calling we are most comfortable with as illustrated by passages such as I Peter 2:12: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

But we were also challenged to take action. Verbs are action words, and functioning as the “verb” form of witness includes verbally speaking of our love for Jesus. It requires us to do more than live a quiet, obedient Christian life.

I suspect most of us have greater difficulty with this more active form of what it means to be a witness.

In Acts 28:31, Luke writes that for two years Paul “Boldly and without hindrance preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Several of the attendees at this meeting were genuinely confused and asked me why American Christians do not speak out more boldly in public, especially since we have the freedom to speak out that they can only dream of. I didn’t have a defensible answer.

Being a two-fold witness might cost us, but that’s the assignment we’ve been given.

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