God is one, and God is sovereign. No one can dispute that. On that everyone who even thinks about God can agree. Those who know God as well as think about Him can add even more details. God is forgiving. God is merciful. Those who follow God as well as know Him can add yet more. God is among us. God has pitched His tent among us. God is love.
What kind of witnesses are we? Do we witness for the God we think about? Or about the God we know? Or about the God we follow? What? Am I being presumptuous in assuming that all of us witness? Some of us don’t think it’s proper to witness, to ‘get in other people’s faces about religion’ because that’s a private matter? Well, I’m afraid I have to disagree on two counts: All of us do witness, and religion is not a private matter.
What do I mean by saying ‘all of us do witness’?
You can’t hide what’s inside you, as hard as you try, whether what you have inside is clean or dirty, wise or foolish, faithful or careless, whether you are full or empty. Hence, if you don’t believe in God, it shows, and if you do believe, it also shows.
But what is that belief?
An intellectual assent to mere ideas?
A fussy following of traditions?
A braggadocious and cynical otherworldliness?
Or is it, hopefully, based on what the scriptures refer to as faith, that is, trust in the living God?
If your belief is that, it cannot be like any of the other types of ‘belief’ I just mentioned.
We witness all the time whether we speak or keep silence. It’s evident in the flow of our daily life and activity, the way we interact with others, whether they are Christians or not, Jews or not, Muslims or not, Hindus or not, Buddhists or not. Do we treat all of them with the same respect, whether they are of our fold or not?
Why did I include these other groups, even though I am a Christian? Do I think all paths are the same?
No, there may be many paths, but there is only one Way, and that is Jesus. Out of respect for those who seek the God that is the One, the Living, who revealed Himself to the prophets of Israel and finally and fully only in Jesus the Christ. Out of trust in the words of my Master that ‘he who seeks shall find,’ and hoping that they who seek are doing just that, and not merely play acting.
So, we all witness, whether we intend to or not. As for religion not being a private matter, I recant. I was wrong. Religion is a private matter, as private as our fantasies. Religion is what we make God out to be when we do not seek Him with our whole heart. Religion is that net we make in which we hope in vain to capture the big Fish, for He cannot be captured, though He can capture us. Religion is being satisfied with approaching God through a veil, so we don’t have to see His face or hear His voice.
Yes, religion is a private matter.
But as for Jesus, He came to His own, and His own received Him not.
Why? Because they were out fishing for God with their nets, half-knowing He could not be caught. They were satisfied to let one man approach the Holy One by passing through the veil, so they did not have to. They would rather say to themselves, ‘Love the Lord with all your heart…’ because they knew it was safe to do so, because they knew He was somewhere ‘up there,’ because they didn’t really believe in the prophet, who called Him, ‘God among us,’ Immanu-El.
I was just thinking what it will look like someday when a young man in love with God, the One, the Living, Him who is among us, is ready to go out and, following Jesus, gather His lambs from among the people who walk in darkness of this world's night. His witness will come out of a heart that does not just think about God, does not just know Him, but actually follows Him step by step. He will be like the Pied Piper who, after luring the rats of Hamelin to their deaths in the river, then led the children of the unrepentant and stingy townspeople through the Gateway into the Mountain, to Paradise.
We know that Mountain. It is called Golgotha, and we know where that Gateway leads.