Not merely in the words you say,
Not only in your deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed.
Is it a beatific smile,
A holy light upon your brow;
Oh no, I felt His Presence while
You laughed just now.
For me ‘twas not the truth you taught
To you so clear, to me still dim
But when you came to me you brought
A sense of Him.
And from your eyes He beckons me,
And from your heart His love is shed,
Til I lose sight of you and see
The Christ instead.
— A. S. Wilson
This poem was recited to me this morning by a dear friend of mine who lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He kindly sent me a copy of it in a message, and I researched it a little, because I wanted to find out who the author was. It was quoted in a book by Isobel Kuhn, missionary to China, entitled Second-Mile People, in which she told of seven people in her life who had illustrated the scriptural principle of going the ‘second mile.’ She quotes this poem at the beginning of a chapter, and attributes it to one A. S. Wilson.
The poem illustrates beautifully an idea that I know I harp on rather too much, but that we who know Christ and try to follow Him can sometimes be ‘the only gospel someone might hear today.’ In other words, in apostolic words in fact, we are Christ's ambassadors. It is not for us to announce the bad news in the face of the unsaved world around us, telling them what they're doing wrong or even worse, why they're going to hell. No, we must always start with the good news.
And that doesn't have to be overt witnessing. It doesn't have to be, but it could be, something like what I used to do every Saturday with a friend, go downtown and take turns publicly reading the Gospel according to John in the square, without commenting on it, or stopping to witness. Our witness was the fact of our reading the Book aloud in the open air. What this taught me was, we are always witnesses, no matter what we are doing, or not doing.
Knowing that, one can easily see that the purest, least personally motivated or self-justifying sort of witness is to just be friendly, kind, affirmative, to the people around us, with whom we live and work. This is, in fact, how I was evangelized when I was a nominal Christian. The kindness and hospitality of a young Christian couple of my own age helped me see Christ, as He lived in them. That experience hasn't faded into memory, but is constantly with me to this day.
I just wanted to share this poem, and I'm going to try to memorise it too. For too long Christians have let their religious views and prejudices drive people away from Christ, when it is so easy to just put the Gospel to practice, and 'love thy neighbor' as the Bible commands, because along with 'Love the Lord,' on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.